For me, becoming an upcycler was actually a necessity: I love to take things apart but never usually manage to put them back together. Which means I have no choice but to use these parts to create something new, like a good table out of two bad chairs. I find a practical use for abandoned objects which long to show off their original patina.
In the same way that families break up and reform, I use the wreckage of time to create new stories that ask new questions: So where does all this stuff come from? What does new or old actually mean? Looking at the molecules in a glass of water you realize they are billions of years old. In the biochemical cycle of death and rebirth, they could have been part of almost anything: lettuce in a royal garden, the dying breath of a Thai monitor lizard, or the wall of Stalin’s stomach. Whatever you have in your hand today, that glass of fresh water, your lover’s hand or a bouquet of poppies, it comes from eternity and there it will return. And there you might well bump into it in some form or another. Bottom line: please take great care of the things you handle.
Recycling will always happen, sooner or later, with or without our consent. Upcycling however, opens up the closed cycle and transforms it into an upward spiral: reconfiguring the obsolete in order to achieve something better, something superior. That cannot happen without a human decision, without a fresh approach, without politics.
One can of course question the purpose of an upcycling-workshop that teaches people how to make a good table out of two bad chairs, when other people put stickers on their SUVs that ask “Who will protect us from environmental protectionists?” or graffiti their exhaust-pipes with “Fuck Greta”. The French geographer Sylvain Tesson has written that: “the one downside to human extinction is that there won’t be anyone left to celebrate it.” But while I sometimes feel just like that, I still believe that positive role models can make a difference. Perhaps because I have children and I grew up in in the countryside.
My upcycling workshop is structured like a Ressourcerie1: There is a storeroom where you can bring your old junk; a workshop where I repair or customise things, or build from scratch; and there is a shop where you can buy not only these objects but also second-hand raw materials. And there is room for ideas: for talks, workshops, advise sessions. I wish every neighbourhood had its own Ressourcerie – until then I shall look forward to your visit.
Translation: Sigrun Matthiesen/Marc Chacksfield