Animator-turned-designer Paulo Goldstein repairs broken objects to express the socio-economic effects of the financial crisis. onoffice caught up with the young Brazilian at his exhibition in Desso’s showroom.
Paulo Goldstein’s bizarre designs (his words, not ours) give new slant to the psychology of hacking. His Repair is Beautiful project has seen him fix items like a chair, a lamp, headphones and an iPod Shuffle using highly unusual techniques and materials – but unlike many others under the ‘hacking’ umbrella, this project is not about sustainability or postmodernism. Instead, Goldstein explains, it’s about taking back control after the effects of the recession.
After studying fine art in Brazil, Goldstein moved to the UK in 2006, living in Manchester to work in stop-motion animation. He worked as a sculptor and model-maker for films like Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, until in 2008 the financial crisis rendered him unemployed. Creatively frustrated, he went to study a masters degree at Central Saint Martins, where his final project was the first iteration of this collection.
“I was using broken objects as a comparison with the broken financial system,” Goldstein says. “The crisis affected my whole life and I felt complete lack of control so I decided to channel that into a design project. I learned about these complex objects – the headphones, for example – and how they worked, and tried to repair them.”
One earpiece on the headphones was broken, so he attached a new speaker to the back. That made it too heavy, so he added a shoulder support. That restricted their movement, so he created an articulated frame. The result was a convoluted pile-up of repairs, which made Goldstein realise something.
“Within a complex system there are thousands of parts that interact and influence each other, therefore one cannot be fixed or changed in isolation because it could collapse the whole thing. In the financial crisis it was the housing problems in the US,” he says, “and in my headphones it was the earpiece. I worked around the problem and, in doing so, caused more problems. It was a vicious cycle of problem solving.”
He also fixed an iPod Shuffle clip using a spare rib bone, and an Anglepoise lamp using wooden bolt-ons. By his own admittance, the objects are odd, but they are intended as a physical metaphor for bigger issues.
Hacking is a trendy word, which he doesn’t use to describe his work.
“There are bad connotations with hacking that it’s about destroying; but there are good sides too,” he says. “When you’re hacking, you’re engaging with that thing. You have the opportunity to give more value and create an emotional attachment. Traditionally, repairs are meant to disappear, but what I do is the opposite. I celebrate the repair.”