Handmade - Sławomir Wojciechowski

Today, objects age at a lightning pace. They are only required to survive a short period from their manufacture to the market release of a new model. Their subsequent fate is indifferent. They can look great and work great, but it is embarrassing to use them as gifts; nor can they be passed on to the next generation like you used to inherit an umbrella, pen, or chest of drawers. 

Falling for a short moment into human hands, series of identical devices are made by machines. Perhaps it is also why we find it hard to establish a durable, emotional relationship with them. Although not busy anymore with material production, hands continue to “work hard”: they select, compare, order, repair, disseminate knowledge, social ideas and values. Their actions express our reflections, anxieties, and dreams. 

Sadly, our hands are also keen to destroy.

Stanisław Lem once imagined a mysterious planet called Eden, organised in a way so distant from human perception that it was hard to fathom altogether. On that planet abandoned by an alien civilisation, astronauts found a factory in a crazy circle of production and recycling: items produced were immediately recycled into materials needed for the production of identical items.

The Eden factory surpassed our modern factories be it only with its perfect recycling mechanism, which remains a utopia on Earth. The factory’s lunatic loop may seem innocent from our point of view: no profit, no loss.

Compared to Eden, our own factories resemble crazy monsters. The products they excrete must serve consumers as shortly as possible; it is uneconomical to repair or recycle them. Once damaged, they are hidden somewhere or sent to poorer countries. Factories hire the best engineers to come up with ever more sophisticated faults, hidden defects, uptime limits, and so forth. The madness of modern production blurs the ancient rational laws. Factories rotate in a ritual dance around the god of consumption. Priests of consumerism talk about the free market, rating agencies, GDP, stock market speculation, casting their spells. They warn against decreasing our donations: the hungry god would devour us. 

In this chaos, it is hard to notice that this deregulated system self-generates absurd profits, while the lack of control over their distribution becomes a fundamental issue of the modern world. Acting within the system, experts on investment, moderation, and savings earn, by pure inertia, regardless of their competences or merits, salaries several hundred times higher than the average taxpayer’s wage. 

Thus we have crazy factories and their priests. We also have a growing mass of the faithful and practicing who sacrifice new, expensive, nicely packaged products on the altar of the god of consumption. Milk containers are broken in shops (there are also the first martyrs: broken legs, arms, jaws, rankings of the worst lethal Black Friday accidents), newly purchased gadgets are subjected to “endurance tests” using hammers, food processors, blow torches, or drills. There are popular series: knife versus mobile phone, knife versus springboard, chainsaw versus vacuum cleaner. There are Nutella baths and new computers sinking into dry ice. Before sinking, a computer can be additionally smashed with a crowbar, shovel, axe, chair, or new games console. 

These innumerable series of merry ceremonies are praised by millions of internet users: as we know, they contribute to GDP and crucial international ratings. In the nearest future, we might witness things surprising from a provincial perspective. Someone crushes a newly bought car with a giant hammer; a group of people fires machine guns against computers in a forest. Let us not be surprised. Wise experts will explain how all this was paid for with our taxes for the benefit of the free market economy. 

Sławomir Wojciechowski