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Sure You Know What This is? Think Again!


When we move from one house to another, we suddenly realise  how many objects we are surrounded by. We buy things and throw them away without really focusing on the before and after; they just land in a shop where we pick them up, and end up in a bin where again somebody picks them up to take them back into the thin air they came from. Sheets, cups, chairs, dresses and cases populate and fill our lives, and, as a matter of fact, in a city, the artificial landscape is much broader than the natural one. But one of the great differences between the two worlds is that artificial objects are created for a purpose, i.e. to be used. We look at them and see their function clearly, which makes sense. What would be the point of a phone if the keyboard wasn't working any more?

When these objects have had enough of carrying out the job they were made for, we just get rid of them, either with some sadness, for they were part of our adventures, or with no regret at all. Scrap. Tired, tried, useless things.

But what if we were to look at these very objects with an open mind, depriving them of the function they were created for? The “Revive Project” has taken on this challenge, right here in Berlin. These guys look at things valuing the spread between the object and its usual use, and expose all of the hidden processes.

Whether we're talking about things which are otherwise sentenced to death, or simply objects that are taken out of their native context, we see creativity blowing up our world: loo rolls that turn into light fittings, computer parts into earrings, waste wood into tables and kitchens. You can track down their stories, yet told from a new position.


Art had already taken this step half a century ago, raising everyday objects to artworks, and vice versa. But the point here is not challenging the standards of beauty and art, or reconsidering the standards of industrial products; here the focus is on a drifting outlook, on the ability to see differently, make beauty affordable through creativity, and, last but not least, be able to arrange all the processes that we use to think as barely intelligible and simply delegate to industry as if that were the only possibility.

Their motto is instead: YKEA? As if to say, do we really need it? Do we really need this long industrial process that creates new stuff with a lot of energy wasted to pay for it?

This is so inspiring, not only for the environmental value – not all of Revive's creations come from scrap, some are just reinterpretations of stuff which is still good for its original purpose - but for this positivity surplus, for the ability to see the opportunity to change the coordinates of an object, relocating it from one frame to another, where it not only has sense, but also dignity and beauty, and where its story is preserved, like a treasure's spoor. It's about upgrading through disassembling and reassembling meaning.

I find it a very useful exercise nowadays, and we can also apply it to ourselves: so many people find themselves rejected from the labour market and have the possibility or the duty to reinvent themselves, putting together their torn pieces as if to create a brand new shape. A shape that sometimes, far from being a fall-back, a descent, a lowering, can result in an enhancement.

The Orquestra de Instrumentos Riciclados in Paraguay teaches us that even crap can be nothing less than the possibility of redemption, as objects found in landfills have been transformed into musical instruments: violins, double basses and so on, allowing the guys living in the slums to play in an orchestra. These guys would have never been able to afford to buy – and therefore play – such instruments, but now they're playing in a proper orchestra, with amazing results, and seeing them play really touches your heart.


Best wishes to the Berlin Revive Project, and here's hoping that more and more people will have the same strength and energy to look at objects – but not only objects – in a new way, thereby finding the hidden potential.

You can find the Revive Project at Parkstraße 16, a place, a lab, which was itself converted and rearranged with DIY furniture, where artists have their home. Artists which also took part in the Wolf Theatre, a project that survived until this month, and is now forced to close due to the same old problem of rising rents.

By Diana Calvino

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