What would it mean to design or manufacture with no society to serve or sell to?
What might happen to the pursuit of function or beauty if neither trade nor fashion existed?
In an effort to imagine this scenario, this project introduces The Last Man – the final, lone member of humanity – who gamely continues to design and build his own material world, free from societal norms or constraints of time.
There has been no disaster, the buildings stand, the shelves are still stacked, there are simply no other people. The Last Man puts aside his grief and looks to the future, constructing his own surroundings replete with an array of artefacts that perfectly suits his practical and emotional needs, transforming himself from passive consumer to active protagonist. With no prior skill in making, collected together the objects, environments, images and writings of The Last Man will describe the joy, obsessions, frustrations and ingenuity of a single person struggling to maintain hope and purpose through an engagement with his material world.
The Last Man: Chapter 1 Improvement consists of a mass participatory experiment that saw students, staff and others create new objects for The Last Man that focus on progression and improvement in contemporary product design. Over a three week period, Gallery visitors were invited to take away one of fifty existing found objects, and improve it in any way they choose over twenty-four hours. The object must then be returned and made available for other participants to adapt; the process repeating across the three weeks with all participants remaining anonymous.
The ongoing project provides a speculative vantage point to consider issues relating to product design and consumerism, manifested through a series of experiments that call on the views, tastes and skills of multiple participants to produce objects that represent the work of The Last Man.
Throughout December 2013, Gallery visitors were invited to borrow an object from The Last Man’s collection, make an improvement to it, of whatever kind, and return it the following day. The object was then available to be chosen by another participant, whose improvement could alter previous work. Exactly what constitutes ‘improvement’ was the fundamental question at play. Individual contributions are anonymous, voluntary and impermanent, but each was documented and published online at www.thelastman.org in a visual log of up to two years of The Last Man’s solitary yet hopeful acts of labour and imagination.
Gallery Residency: 4 – 21 December 2013
Collection Times: 3pm to close (Tue-Sat) / Return Times: 11am to midday (Tue-Sat)
Click here to see the results of The Last Man: Chapter 1 Improvement