It’s one thing to take leftover industrial waste and repurpose it into art, but it’s another thing entirely to equip a factory to turn its own byproducts into imaginative and useful objects. This could very well be a new manufacturing trend, thanks to Seoul-based artist Youngmin Kang.
For his recent collection Art from Factory (AFF), Kang worked with a Korean business to fashion furniture from some custom metal molds and the company’s own assembly equipment. Hot plastic in vibrant hues oozes out of nozzles, layering back and forth on itself as it fills out into the rough shape of a chair or stool. The effect is a stunning, multi-colored seat that looks like it could have been squeezed out a tube of toothpaste.
The project began when the company, which generates plastic-coated steel piping, including grip stands for all the buses in South Korea’s capital city, emailed a plea for help in managing their waste. Their plastic by-product was accumulating at the same rate as their finished output, according to Kang. The solution was art. “After observing its system closely, I decided to create a design out of the remaining materials to pursue the virtue of my art: seeking wit from everyday life,” he says.
On his Instagram account, Kang explains his thought process with AFF: “Since the development of industrialization, art and design have been divided into black and white, and the boundaries between industrial and artistic products have become clear. However, this clear line only separates everything from what is considered as practical and what is not. To me, factories were the opposite concept of art, operating mass production systems. Through this project, I wanted to find a way to produce something using plastic waste in these hard, uniformed gray spaces in order to achieve a variety of results. I think this is the process of trying to find values that can reflect the present in the boundaries of today’s art and design.”
With the transformation of machine-made dross into pulled-taffy-like fixtures, Kang was able to achieve a synergistic union between industrial functionality and artistic form. He allowed his passion for fashion to run wild with this initial compilation, using red, white, and black as the basis for his “Nike Air Jordan” chair. Kang also crafted one in the traditional colors of Reebok merchandise, a nod to his previous collaboration with the company.
A green stool with one red leg Kang labeled “red-eyed tree frog.” He also experimented with a traffic cone shape called ‘NO PARKING’ that has already been sold to a fellow Korean designer Joonghyung Cho.
Kang has been on the art scene since 2006, when he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Masters in Studio Design. Before that, he studied at the Seoul National University. Other recent creative ventures have included his Collection 1.3, stools made of metal pipes and rope, and the “Oddly Bookshelf,” a metal see-saw that holds books in place with a wooden orb.
His AFF furniture compilation is currently under development for post-COVID 19 exhibitions and collaborations. Items for individual purchase will be available soon.