Environmental sustainability is a concern affecting much recent design. This often takes the form of recycling waste products in materials for production. What distinguishes Australian, and particularly Victorian, design is a form of recycling that goes beyond practical efficiency. As a recent comparison of Danish and Australian recycling claims, local design is marked by a desire to recover lost elements of the past. This often takes the form of re-using materials in a way that reflects their origin. In Australian craft, Martin Corbin’s reconstruction of kitchen chairs into cabinets is a key reference.

As a symbolic practice, this kind of recycling shares much in common with medieval reliquaries. Here, churches house fragments of holy relics, such as saints’ bones, in elaborate ornaments. Reliquaries were one of the main attractions for tourists/pilgrims to distant churches.

Goodbye Kind World is based on the idea of transferring this tradition of reliquaries to the contemporary era. This idea runs parallel with an increasing interest among artists with the aura of material detritus (see Jenny Holzer’s Lustmord). The twentieth century has witnessed radical transformations to society, and in their wake has been a large amount of cultural moraine. The Berlin Wall is the best known example of this. With the demise of communism in Eastern Europe, the concrete edifice of the Iron Curtain was not only destroyed, but ‘souvenired’ by hundreds of thousands. Now homes around the world contain a fragment of this wall.

Closer to home, the transformation of society from paternalism to self-reliance has left structures devoid of purpose. Buildings such as churches, post offices and banks are sold off for housing redevelopment. What about their fittings? Goodbye Kind World invites artists to exercise their creativity in finding new uses for old things.


At the moment, Australian society is marked by a division not seen before. This comes just as we are about to share with the world a journey into a new millennium. It is critical that we use this opportunity to find activities that serve to bring us together.

The reasons for this division are evident. While there is much enthusiasm for the wonders that technology will bring to our lives in the 21st century, there is increasing concern about the changes in their wake. Take the case of ‘smart machines’. Public life used to feature a variety of little kindnesses: a tram conductor helped out with directions; a receptionist suggested a good time to call back; or a bank teller offered a warm smile. No longer. No matter how ‘smart’ they are, machines can’t replace the compelling presence of another living person.

‘Don’t worry’, say the economists, these sacrifices are necessary to keep pace with the emerging global order. ‘Worry’, say the demagogues, you are being cheated of your lifestyle by smooth-talking elites.

How can we look to the future while maintaining what we value about the past? As the 20th century ebbs away, it leaves a residue of jetsam—institutions, machinery and tickets—that has no place in a networked society. These materials provide the perfect resource for souvenirs of the kind world we appear to be leaving behind. The artists in Goodbye Kind World explore opportunities for social renewal by giving new life to materials that will not have a place in the 21st century. This spirit provides the basis for an open colloquy (see ‘Over the Counter’) on ways in which we can make the future more liveable.


The Metro Craft Centre is distinguished by a partnership between exhibition and retail. A craft shop offers visitors the opportunity to purchase a work for personal use. At the moment, there is a large proportion of contemporary craftspersons who do not avail themselves of this opportunity. The reason for this is partly its distance from their goals as exhibiting artists.

Goodbye Kind World aims to address this by having a special purpose shop in association with the exhibition. The souvenir theme helps introduce artists to the task of producing multiple copies for sale. They are encouraged in particular to fabricate souvenirs that are similar to the kinds of relics that might be sold in medieval fairs. Each item will contain a fragment of a lost object.