Q&A: Paulo Goldstein
London-based designer Paulo Goldstein is currently gracing the cover of Frame #89, alongside his graduation project from Central Saint Martins, Repair Is Beautiful.
We spoke to him about frustration, the financial crisis, and the value of classic craftsmanship.
Tell us a little bit about the inspiration for the Repair is Beautiful series.
The inspiration came from frustration; the frustration that we have when certain things around us don’t work as they should, or just break, and how these things affect us.
Being inspired by [the economist] E.F. Schumacher’s idea of scaling technology back to the real need and actual size of man (‘Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful’), to [sociologist and anthropologist] Bruno Latour’s discussions of the power negotiation between man and technology, and [designer and writer] David Pye’s view of the nature of workmanship, I tried to combine their views with my own frustration of being completely powerless when faced by the consequences of financial crisis.
I repaired broken objects using elements of this broken system, creating intriguing new objects that talk about the absurdity of it all. I can’t repair the whole system or social structure, and I can’t affect them on the same scale that they affect me, but I can make pieces that reflect the environment that created them and question our society as a whole.
Your work seems to have a strong element of social commentary, as you’ve spoken about addressing not just a broken chair or iPod, but broken systems – the financial system, the environment. What do you think repair brings people in times of uncertainty?
I think repair brings a certain sense of control over things; Repair is an entry door to craftsmanship, which in my view is all about the idea of controlling the material, the tools and the outcome. The full title of my project is: Repair is Beautiful – Homo Faber and the Broken Things. The term 'Homo-Faber' means 'man-the-maker,' - in my project, the term stands for values of craftsmanship, empowerment of the individual and resourcefulness. This 'Homo Faber' persona, with a hands-on approach and use of human ingenuity and creativity, tries to control this uncontrollable and complex scenario, of financial crisis, resulting in neurotic behaviour, by designing over-repaired objects that reflect its environment. Repair and craftsmanship play a crucial role in balancing idealism with practicality, showing a different alternative, not better, just different.
Particularly in the case of your repairs on technology – an iPod, a headphone speaker – you use materials such as polished wood and bone. What do you think these materials, and your emphasis on craftsmanship, bring to the repaired object aesthetically?
Aesthetically, it brings a huge contrast between the repaired part and the original product. It combines and clashes the different ways to produce and think about 'things.' The materials and craftsmanship applied on the repair have the intention to be very complex and visually attract the attention so that people are intrigued and distracted by it, so they don’t see the simple broken part that is right in front of their eyes.
In the past, you’ve worked as a sculptor and model maker on major animated films such as Frankenweenie and Fantastic Mr. Fox, as well as illustrating children’s books – suggesting an emphasis on fantasy, on imagination, storytelling. Do you feel that your current work is a departure from these elements, or a continuation?
I’m not too sure, it might be a continuation, I think is something that was always there, it ran in parallel. What I mean is that the stop-motion animation was a passion from childhood that I pursued for a long time. This passion drove me towards the making aspect of things. I never had any formal education on 'making,' I experimented, explored, improvised and this mindset is deeply rooted in the culture where I grew up (Brazil).
So I think it is the other way around, my current work is more a consequence of what I’ve been doing for a long time, and the animation was a personal achievement that helped me to produce my current work …an example of this is that when I was 10 years old I used to repair and hack my broken action toys because their thumbs where always breaking.
Finally, do you have plans for what you will do next?
My project Repair is Beautiful is far from over, I have a few more pieces that I want to make to have a stronger body of work that will help the concepts of the research to flow easier through the pieces and to the audience. With the production of these new pieces, I intend to explore a bit more on a few issues that I just scratch the surface and I think that naturally the project will evolve into something else, but always having the scale idea that 'man is small'…
Apart from my own main project, I’m looking for collaborations with other people, presentation opportunities, commissions and exhibitions. Considering the inspirational nature of my project and the visual research and production, I’m always looking for people, institutions and companies that would like to sponsor my work.
*For more on the best student work from around the world, click here to purchase Frame #89.*