Saturday 24 June 2017

Shipping Container by Craig Martin    {Reviewed by STELLA}
Back in 2008, I delivered a Pecha Kucha presentation entitled ‘Cargo’, about my jewellery and the process of an exhibition which in part involved shipping some artworks to Amsterdam. Living in a port city, stacks of containers are never too far from where one lives and the loading and off-loading of freight from container ships are a constant reminder of the movement of goods from production to consumption. Shipping Containerby Craig Martin is a wonderful exploration, delving into the development of the container in the face of changes that have occurred since the 1960s, with the rise of globalisation, the need for standard shipping efficiencies and the movement of the manufacture of goods to countries often remote from the marketplace. Martin covers plenty of ground in this highly readable and succinct work for the 'Object Lessons' series. aseries that has at its heart the following rationale: “short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things”. His object, the container, carries all objects. He explains how we moved from highly skilled longshoremen and dock workers to mechanised winches and cranes to computerised systems and highly precise logistics. As a lecturer in design culture, an author on spatiality and the geographies of architecture, Martin’s intimate writing about the shipping container opens with him sitting in a repurposed container at Cove Park, a residency for writers and artists. And it is his obvious fascination with this object, its form and function along with its cultural, socio-political and economic impact that makes the subject so interesting. He goes on to look at the history of the container and the development of an international standard (ISO) for size, dimensions and lifting apparatus for these containers, how efficiencies were developed for transportation between sea, rail and road, creating the seamless systems we have today. He also looks at the aesthetic functionality of the container in its myriad of purposes, and the impact on the workplace. In our globalised society with our ‘just in time’ economic ethos, the shipping container is our hidden wonder.

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