Thursday, December 02, 2010
By Stacey Bark
When the volcano in Iceland began erupting in April of this
year, world focus was drawn to the fact that millions of people who
had planned to travel to somewhere else were now stranded. Actually
stranded is a strong word- maybe stuck is better. If you were stuck
in the Bahamas lucky you! Stuck in London in the middle of a grey
winter with your ex-boyfriend? Maybe not so lucky after all!
Eyjafjallajökull (if you can pronounce that and your aren't from
Iceland you amaze me!) is one of Iceland's smaller ice caps. Its
neighbour Katia's eruptions have previously followed with much more
force. Its eruption is apparently immanent.
What I found was totally overlooked (or perhaps just not
reported in the media I peruse everyday) was how the people of
Iceland felt. Perhaps they momentarily thought about how crazy it
was that their usually quiet and mostly unknown country had brought
world travel to its knees. Was there anyone living near the
volcano? How did they feel about potentially losing their homes and
having to flee from everything they had built their lives around?
Were they petrified of the activity that might happen or were they
happy about the future fertile lands the volcano would create?
A French designer Nelly Ben Hayoun decided to experiment with
how ordinary people would cope with living with a volcano on their
doorstep. Or in this case, in their living room!
Called 'The Other Volcano', the project comprises a porcelain
model of a volcano filled with explosives. Volunteers could plug
the device into the mains and wait, knowing it could erupt at any
time. Ben Hayoun developed the project in collaboration with a
volcano expert and a explosives designer. It was first
presented at the London Design Festival in September of this
Ben Hayoun wanted to see how people would deal with a live
volcano in the middle of their home. Would theyignore it? Would
they wrap it up? Would they try to destroy it? Would they pull the
plug out? Would they be more popular because they shared their life
with a volcano? Would they invite people to see it, and switch it
on at the end of the meal to create a 'surprising' effect?
'The Other Volcano' aimed to build a series of semi-domesticated
volcanoes, to be housed for a couple of weeks in the living spaces
of volunteers. These designed supra-natural objects would be large,
reaching almost to the ceiling, imposing, and extremely
inconvenient - erupting dust and gloop into the living rooms of
volunteers seemingly at random.
I don't know about you but I can't imagine I would want
something like that in my living room. It would bring back memories
of late night model making from uni days. I guess at least if your
tummy was rumbling you could just blame the volcano.
The design questioned what could be the future of entertainment
and how far would one go to be given thrills and give us humans
more emotion to make us feel alive. How would people cope with a
sleeping beauty on the side of their couch? 'The Other Volcano'
imagines a love-hate relationship, a 'sleeping giant' in the corner
of one's domestic environment, with the power to provoke excitement
with its rumblings, and also perhaps fear (if not for one's life in
this case, then at least for the soft furnishings of one's clean
and neat 'living' room). It is a project that domesticates the most
violent of natural processes and perhaps forces us to think about
the fact that natural disasters seem to be affecting our lives more
As for Katia, Iceland and the airlines of the world are still
waiting on edge for that imminent eruption.
Eyjafjallajökul erupts - beauty and the beast
The volcano in the living room