Future Remnants: exploring human influence on the future of minerals

With the project Future Remnants, designer Xandra van der Eijk explores what effect humans have on the evolutionary development of mineral formation by exposing metals to low-chemical household products.

We’re all aware that human influence can have devastating ramifications in nature – just look at plastic waste and oil or chemical spills – but the consequences are not always immediately clear.

Van der Eijk’s project aims to show us a speculative glimpse of our future landscape, by showing the reactions of widely available metals to common low-chemical household solutions. She exposed steel, aluminium, zinc, and copper to cleaning products such as all purpose cleaner and battery fluid for a minimum of two and a maximum of seven days. The chemicals evoke a process in which the exterior of the metals is affected, resulting in a large diversity of patterns, crystallisation and colours.

However, no matter how aesthetically appealing the affected metals may look, the project also evokes worry. After all, if these effects are reached with chemicals that are considered to be relatively harmless and safe, in a very short timespan, what is happening in places where much more harmful chemicals are dumped in the environment over the course of decades? Are the reactions of the metal neutralising the effect of the chemicals, or do they create an even more hazardous situation? Can the range of new materials and minerals created in this way serve a purpose?

Future Remnants was developed for the project Mutant Matter by Dutch Invertuals in collaboration with Franklin Till, and presented at the Milan Design Week 2018.

Photos: Ronald Smits