Wonderland

Science and fashion meet at Ormeau Baths Gallery. Click Play Video for an online exhibition with Ciara Hickey

Wonderland at the Ormeau Baths Gallery is a unique installation exhibition that combines art, science and fashion in an attempt to confront and reverse the wastefulness of 21st century throw-away society. 

The exhibition is a joint project conceived and organised by leading research chemist Professor Tony Ryan of Sheffield University and UK designer, Professor Helen Storey of the London College of Fashion.

Interface, the University of Ulster’s design-research centre, created the textiles for the exhibition, which disolving dresshas already had high profile launches in London and Sheffield.

'Wonderland is about art meeting science in ways that make people think about how we are using materials, how we dispose of them and where all this senseless waste is taking us,' Ryan explains.

The exhibition may sound a little off-the-wall but it does have a firm scientific background. The main aim of the exhibit is not just to focus on waste but also to highlight how the general public can recycle waste to make something more interesting, constructive and potentially beneficial to the environment.

'Wonderland is about stimulating the public conscience in visual and dramatic ways and empowering people to dream about alternative ways of consuming,' continues Ryan.

'People throw away 20 tons of plastics waste in their life. Hopefully, this exhibition will make us think about what we are doing to the earth.'

The organisers describe the exhibits as metaphors with a solid practical edge. 

Upstairs in the Ormeau Baths dresses made from dissolving textiles created by the Fabric Forward team at Interface and designed by Storey are hung from scaffolds. The dresses will be gradually lowered into giant goldfish bowls of water in which they dissolve slowly over three weeks, creating vibrant underwater fireworks. This element of the exhibition questions the environmental sustainability of our current fashion industry.

Disolving dressIn Room 1, a decorative garden shed houses a small green house extension, in which can be seen everyday plastic containers along with bunches of herbs. 

This is a visual representation of the inspiration behind the exhibition, which saw Ryan and Storey consider how such plastic containers might be made to desolve automatically when empty. Once finished with, the bottles dissolve in hot water to form a gel in which flower seeds can be grown.

If they catch on, the processes utilised as part of Wonderland could revolutionise packaging and material design globally. Two of the processes utilised in the exhibition are being patented and there has already been considerable commercial interest.

'No one person has the solutions to some of mankind’s greatest challenges. Now is the time to bring science, art and business together, and through beautiful audacity, rigour and help to change the environment for the better,' declares Storey.

Wonderland runs until November 8 at the Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast.

Emma Blee