Every April the design world descends upon the Italian city of Milan for the annual Salone del Mobile Milano (Furniture Fair). We were invited to present our project together with Dutch Invertuals, a collective of young designers. Under the theme Untouchables Retouched, we focused on vulnerability. We felt that this was a great opportunity to generate some pre-publicity for the project as well as gaining valuable feedback from the visitors and allowing us to develop and complete one of the objects from the project early on. It is an aim of the Aqua Vita project to blend current means of data collection and analysis (both high and low tech) with speculative concepts. In this way we hint at the possibilities from an informed, personal position. This explains the importance of placing ourselves as Guinea Pigs within the project.
The designs we will present at Naturalis in June derive from our experiences during the Urine and Cortisol sampling phase as well as our daily responses to the Chinese Questionnaire. With these objects we speculate as to the possible future of health care, where individuals interact with and analyse their body data on a daily basis. Early on we felt that it would be interesting to present our first design object, Urine Vials, as this seemed to best fit the context of the Salone given that this is the most direct object we plan to develop in the project.
As mentioned in our earlier blog posts, the Urine Vials are our first contact with the metabolic data contained within, the colour and consistency acting as a snapshot of your current health state, a Zoom Out of body data. The design of the vial was chosen to reference the traditional shape of the Urine Flask, as used by physicians in the 16th century for the inspection of bodily fluids, and a thick layer of concave glass at the base created to give magnification of the contents within. 14 bottles were produced in total – 7 each for Susana and myself, 1 for every day of the week. The idea is to display all 7 vials of urine at any one time, with the bottles constantly on rotation so you are able to view the change in tone and consistency over the past 7 days. In addition we developed the Colour Wheel Flyer, shown in the last blog post, so visitors could in fact inspect the samples in the exhibition themselves, learning further about the level of information present within our Pee as well the project as a whole.
Of course the urine is the star of the show, and this time we thankfully had no troubles in getting our samples onto the flight. Interestingly, many of the visitors were unsure if the urine was in fact authentic, and some members of the public even tried to remove the rubber bung from the vial to inhale the contents. You can imagine the shock on peoples faces when they realised they were sniffing the real deal. Perhaps this is because in such a context as the Salone the idea of presenting your Urine is absurd. However, this might in fact highlight just how distant society truly is from its waste. It also hints at a wider issue faced by those designers / artists working with speculative concepts, that is, to what extent the artefacts displayed are read as fact or fiction. In Naturalis in June, we will in fact show a mixture of the two and, in this sense, exhibiting in Milan served as timely reminder of the importance of a strong narrative element within our project to explain our future vision based on our experiences in the present.
One final note. In a web article covering the Salone published by GQ Mens Magazine in Italy the author wrote with a sense of awe at the Urine Vials, her closing remark being:
“The thing that struck me most was that foreigners are able to showcase the pee much better than Italians expose masterpieces”.
Evidence perhaps that we might yet grow to view our Urine with the wonder it deserves?