Many materials receive negative connotations, but many of these derive from human interactions with the materials and the process that we have created for them. Coal is well known for being problematic due to its use as fuel and the pollutants it creates. But designer Jesper Eriksson has considered an alternative future use of coal by re-evaluating the material’s negative image through design.
Coal: Post Fuel is a project by Jesper Eriksson, an artist and designer based in London whose work relates to humans, culture and materials. Creating contemporary narratives to existing historical, socio-economical or cultural contexts. He began working with coal as he wanted to change the connotation that surrounds it. He quotes “It is the CO2 that is released from burning it that is harmful, not the material.” So he began using coal as a material for architecture, furniture and interior design. Creating pieces that look high end, and some that look almost as if made from expensive black marble. These help to reevaluate coal and its desirability in new ways, all by giving it another purpose. We exhaust our landscapes for our growing desire to consume. Instead what if we looked at how precious and fascinating the materials are that we abuse.
Coal is compressed organic sedimentary rock that has been made over a span of 1 million years. This geological process is rather special as it acts as a form of carbon conservation, where energy is stored instead of being released. Coal has changed modern times, it sustained communities, kept us warm, and enabled technological progress. But ultimately it has polluted our planet and caused health issues for those collecting the material, and others using it. Eriksson is interested in the culture and social economics around coal use and the mining industry, and hopes to also celebrate this.
“Fossil fuels are, by definition, a materialisation of social relations. No piece of coal or drop of oil has yet turned itself into fuel.”
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