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Future Materials Bank

Which choices do you make as an artist or creator when you have to decide which materials to use on your next project? The Nature Research department at the Jan van Eyk Academie initiated a special library for artists and designers to research alternative materials. The Future Materials Bank (FMB) is an ongoing investigation into new materials and the choices that can be made, as well as the (material) language that goes with it.

a bottle with purple bacteria for PUMAxLivingColour Design to Fade - photocredit Ingo Foertsch. *Project Living Colour is a collaboration between Laura Luchtman (Kukka) and Ilfa Siebenhaar.*
PUMAxLivingColour DESIGN TO FADE – photo credit Ingo Foertsch
Project Living Colour is a collaboration between Laura Luchtman (Kukka) and Ilfa Siebenhaar.

Holistic and sustainable

The goal of FMB is to inform artists about the use of certain materials to transform into a more holistic and sustainable practice. Non-patented new materials can be submitted by artists and designers. The material is then assessed with the aid of a Material Policy which determines if the material is also right for usage by other artists or within a specific area. According to FMB, there is no direct answer to whether a material is ‘future-proof’. The use of multiple compounds or an un-transparent supply chain can make it hard to determine if it still will be relevant in time. An example given is an organic grown raw material which has a big carbon footprint due to transport means.

‘Materials that inspire, promote, and support the transition towards a more sustainable artistic practice.’

Future Materials Bank 2020
Material Policy

The database is divided into six categories: Glues, resins and polymers, pigments, glazes and dyes, biomaterials, oils and waxes, textiles and fibers, and recycled plastics. The materials range from human hair to milk, mycelium, and metal waste. But what makes a material really sustainable? Every material has its own specifics and level of relevance.

The policy is made up of a list of questions that takes you through various specifications about usability, environmental friendliness, social circumstances, and afterlife. For example, is the material relevant to the art practice? Does it have a negative impact on human health? Is it affordable? Is the material tested on animals? Did the workers get a fair wage and how were their working conditions? Another question for example is if the technique or craft used, is of important cultural value.

With new materials and techniques comes a novel subject language. The FMB contains a lexicon with definitions that are a combination of their own interpretation and information from the dictionary to try to be as correct as possible. As well as the database, finding the correct terminology is an ongoing process. Therefore suggestions and additions are welcome!    

As a member of the Green Art Lab Alliance (GALA) the Future Materials Lab was initiated by Yasmine Ostendorf as part of the Nature Research department at the Jan van Eyck Academie, in collaboration with the MA Materials Futures at Central St Martins in London. The materials are crowdsourced by 45 art organizations in Asia, Latin-America and Europe, and all part of GALA.

Screenshot from the material bank
Screenshot from the material bank