(Roughly) Daily

Darker, please…

Left to his own devices he couldn’t build a toaster. He could just about make a sandwich and that was it.
Mostly Harmless, Douglas Adams, 1992

British artist Thomas Thwaites has built a toaster… from scratch – beginning by mining the raw materials and ending with a product that a High Street retailer sells for only £3.99.

The practical aspects of the project are rather a lot of fun. They also serve as a vehicle through which theoretical issues can be raised and investigated. Commercial extraction and processing of the necessary materials happens on a scale that is difficult to resolve into the domestic toaster.

The contrast in scale between between consumer products we use in the home and the industry that produces them is I think absurd – massive industrial activity devoted to making objects which enable us, the consumer, to toast bread more efficiently. These items betray no trace of their providence.

So are toasters ridiculous? It depends on the scale at which you look. Looking close up, a desire (for toast) and the fulfilment of that desire is totally reasonable. Perhaps the majority of human activity can be reduced to a desire to make life more comfortable for ourselves, and has thus far led to being able to buy a toaster for £3.99 [among other achievements]. But looking at toasters in relation to global industry, at a moment in time when the effects of our industry are no longer trivial compared to the insignificant when our, they seem unreasonable. I think our position is ambiguous – the scale of industry involved in making a toaster [etc.] is ridiculous but at the same time the chain of discoveries and small technological developments that occurred along the way make it entirely reasonable.

It’s on display now, at the Royal College of Art in London.  “Please come along and say hello,” Thwaites asks, “and I will (I hope) be able to toast you something.” Failing that, the reader can visit this link for a series videos on the process.

As we reach for the marmalade, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937 that the Lockheed aircraft carrying American aviator Amelia Earhart and navigator Frederick Noonan was reported missing near Howland Island in the Pacific. The pair were attempting to fly around the world when they lost their bearings on the most difficult leg of the journey: Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island, a tiny island 2,227 nautical miles away, in the center of the Pacific Ocean.

source: AcePilots.com

Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 2, 2009 at 12:01 am

%d bloggers like this: