Thursday, March 26, 2009

Accidental Genius

This package design has been showing up in the blogs lately. Designed by artist Justin Gignac, "Garbage" is meant to prove that package design is highly influential, and that good packaging can make consumers want to buy just about anything. Even something that nobody would ever want to buy. I think he may have underestimated the value of "Garbage."

I see so much meaning in the product as a piece of art, more than the artist may have intended. I happen to think this piece is absolutely genius. Allow me to elaborate.

Let's face it, this is a great souvenir for New York. When buying a souvenir from somewhere, you look for something that captures the essence of a place. The best souvenirs come from the natural environment of a place. In the mountains, you might bottle the fresh mountain air. At the glaciers, you might collect a piece of glacier. If you visit a honey farm, you might take a piece of the honeycomb. It seems only natural, if you want to take home a real piece of New York City, to bring back "Garbage." Sure, you could get a Statue of Liberty lighter, or an I (heart) NY shirt, but do those really say much about the culture there? Go for the trash, I say.

I also see "Garbage" as a sort of time capsule from one of the most cultured cities in America. These random pieces of trash collected from the streets say a lot about what we were doing, how we were living in 2008/2009. So much of our world is changing constantly, so many favorite objects are slipping through our fingers, that it might be sort of nice to have a packaged piece of what's going on now. For instance, there is a rubber band in this box. Now, rubber bands have remained fairly similar for a long time now, but who's to say that won't change soon? You know that somebody's going to make a scientific breakthrough and invent an indestructable rubber band. And it's going to come in fancy colors, and it's going to feel completely different, and it's going to smell different. It probably won't even be made out of rubber any more. There is also a chip bag included. You know that packaging is going to be constantly changing. What if the redesign of that chip bag was as controversial as Tropicana or Pepsi? This "Garbage" becomes artifacts. Evidence of "...what life was like back then," for future generations.

Depending on how nosy you are, it also poses questions. I've been watching episodes of CSI lately, and it's got me thinking like everything's a crime scene. The package says, "HAND-PICKED from the fertile streets of NY, NY." You know what that means. Litter. At least, that's what it implies. I wonder how many of these packages this artist was able to make. How much litter is readily available? How quickly does the supply renew itself? You could totally get prints off of these. Bust every single litterer in the city of New York. Or you could just reflect on what this means about how much we really care about our actions.

Although I'm not about to drop $100 on garbage, I would really like to own one. I don't think I would want it as much if the packaging wasn't as nice. But I do see so much more concept in the contents than in the packaging itself. You could say I'm adding unnecessary meaning, that this is just another piece of artwork on par with "Fountain," by Marcel Duchamp. But as the viewer, I actually get a lot out of this piece. I think it's absolutely brilliant.

I don't think I'd ever open it.

P.S. I would like to remind you that, if you missed the live webcast of the lecture by Experimental Jetset that I posted about earlier, it is still in the archives at the Walker. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I highly recommend taking the time to watch it.


Command Z said...

That doesn't seem all that accidental. Are you even supposed to open it?

Anonymous said...

genius. the power of packaging and design on the world.....

Miss Pepping said...

Well, I say accidental because the designer wanted to package something "nobody would ever buy." But I think he stumbled onto a pretty smart product.