Plastic cutlery is a global phenomenon and global problem, a symbol of world-spanning logistics and throwaway culture. As mass-produced, cheap, and easily disposable products, they perfectly fulfil their intended purpose while having destructive effects on our ecosystem.
The research project and exhibition “Spoon Archaeology” examines a vast variety of plastic spoons, forks and knives the two designers Peter Eckart and Kai Linke have gathered as study collections. Originally planned as part of the “Rapid Response” series of Dresden State Art Collections as a reaction to the EU ban of plastic disposibles starting on 3 July 2021, the project became the official German contribution curated by Thomas A. Geisler to the London Design Biennale 2021 (LDB). Responding to artistic director and curator Es Devlin's theme ‘Resonance’, the exhibition maps out the connections between production cycles, material flows and cultural anthropological aspects of our daily eating habits. Staged as archaeological remnants, curiosities, and objects of fascination the colourful display became a highlight of the biennale.
The installation raises sweeping questions concerning the tensions between design and the sustainable use of resources. One important referennce is the little-known documentary "Banana Leaf" (1972) from the archives of the North American designer-couple Ray and Charles Eames, which celebrates the reduction of tableware to a simple banana leaf as the highest level of food culture in South India.
Eckart and Linke have been collecting plastic spoons, forks and knives for more than 20 years. Their comprehensive collections of disposable cutlery includes a wide variety of materials, shapes and forms. At some point, Eckart began to discuss the objects with his students at HfG Offenbach. The inspiration to arrange them in an installation that resembles presentations in museums of natural history, stemmed from the idea that disposable cutlery produced in the previous decades will soon become artifacts of a very recent past. Their design is indicative of our table and dining cultures - and ultimately of our way of life.