Mutable Mobile: A device of gathering and framing

Lara Camilla Pinho, Mark Sawyer, Sarah Brooke

Research output: Non-traditional research outputDigital or Visual Products


This is a Mutable Mobile, a fluid object designed to travel and change over time. It can be assembled and disassembled with simple tools and might gradually change shape without disappearing altogether. This object sits within the broader web of concerns of the Re-Form Initiative: a design-research project critically examining design in the context of post-consumer plastic waste. That project assembles a multitude of actors—designers, architects, funding bodies, government agencies, non-profit organisations, community groups, marine scientists, students, shearwaters, molds, mills, and machines—around a common matter of concern.

For In Media Res, the challenge has been to gather and frame the disparate actors and activities of that project in a way that is coherent yet open-ended. The device produced to fill this complex role is relatively simple: a three-dimensional grid that combines the ‘natural’ and the ‘synthetic. Tasmanian Oak members are literally and metaphorically drawn together with a bespoke pin of injection-molded recycled plastic, while a simple timber wedge applies pressure to the connection. It is punctuated by verbs of making that describe common methods for working with thermoplastics while alluding to forms of social organisation.

Although it has been designed, there is no single author. As a collaborative project it crosses time and space, connecting geographically distant contexts—Sumbawa, Tasmania, Western Australia, Lisbon, and Lord Howe Island. Collaboration has been mediated by a network of communication technologies—Skype, mobile phones, emailed PDF drawings, computer models, Dropbox, and good old snail-mail. There have been two major difficulties: the first, collaborating on a physical object over great geographic distances; and the second, finding tolerance for low-skill, low-tech assembly and disassembly of different kinds of materials. The resolution of the design-object has become a meta-critique of these challenges.

—Lara Camilla Pinho, Sarah Brooke, and Mark Sawyer for IDRL
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFremantle, Perth
PublisherIndustrial Design Research Lab
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019
EventIn Media Res: An exhibition of critical design practice - PSAS Art Gallery, Fremantle, Australia
Duration: 30 Nov 201914 Dec 2019


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