Eternally present, for good and for bad, plastic bags are in many ways the prime symbol of our globalised society. Now even in a museum, carrier bags the likes of which have never been seen, between art, sustainability and design, a show that invites reflection.
The show that has just finished at the mudac – musée de design et d’arts appliqués contemporains, Lausanne, is one which, facing off stories of day-to-day life with art and design, reveals how the humble carrier bag can also become object of ones desires.
Comprising some thirty items, the show brings together international designers and artists and highlights the history behind the plastic bag seen through the lense of culture, aesthetics and politics. Cult packaging or rubbish, revered or slighted, the plastic bag splits opinions and reveals the consumer behaviour of the people who use them.
If on the one hand due to its graphic contents and iconic power it can bolster our status and our identity, on the other, excessive and improper use (especially in terms of its disposal) causes problems of environmental decay that cannot be ignored.
And thus, thanks to film clips and debates on possible alternatives and on the evolution of materials, and via installations, sculptures, photos, paintings and objects – not only contemporary works but also pieces from private Swiss collections, like Joseph Beuys’ bag made in 1972 for the installation Büro für Direkte Demokratie durch Volksabstimmung at Documenta Kassel – this show, original and well-conceived, has been capable of carrying out a critical, indepth analysis on a packaging item that is as banal as it is impossible to ignore.