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Proceed With Caution Light, 2020 

Concrete, steel, acrylic, LED bulb, electrical wiring

Exhibited at Never Normal: A Group Design Exhibition Presented by Form & Seek and Wasserman Projects at Wasserman Projects in Detroit, Michigan. September 17 - December 12, 2020.

Never Normal is an exhibition that expresses the ever-changing viewpoint of the designer’s perspective on the built world. The future now seems inscrutable, provoking us to think of the possibilities and opportunities for change in human behaviors and our environment. Looking away from the conventional means of solving problems, the works in this exhibition seek to reexamine and reevaluate our personal relationships to our domestic landscape. Through craft or making, these designers are able to express value, preciousness, and care that offer intuitive moments of clarity on contemporary issues in response to the needs of a society in flux.

Presented in conjunction with Design Core Detroit - Detroit Month of Design, Never Normal seeks to honor Detroit’s history as the cradle of American design and to uphold the city as a platform for new experimental design. The exhibition continues from September 17th through December 12th, 2020.

Curated by: Bilge Nur Saltik, Aaron Blendowski, Evan Fay, Karen Lee, Sophie Yan

For Never Normal, I created a new light, titled Proceed With Caution. I additionally showed two other lights, from 2015 and 2016. My statement for the show is as follows:

Stop lights, street lights, and construction barriers are all objects that act as forms of control in the built environment. Stop lights control the flow of traffic, street lights tell you where it’s safe to walk and illuminate the vastness of our built world, and construction barriers prevent us from entering work zones and redirect us. While these objects are intended to allow us to – or prevent us from – doing certain things, the rules will always be broken. But these objects have power – the signals they give us are part of the social contract, and although they are often intended to provide safety, they can also be used, or appropriated, to keep us from going places, to contain us, or even commandeered by the public to send messages (hacked construction signs), or protect themselves. Recently, in the protests against police brutality, we have seen the Chicago Police Department raise drawbridges to contain protestors. In many other cities, we have seen images of protestors using construction barriers and temporary fences as a defense against police in riot gear and police cars driving into protestors. While these recent examples speak to the grim reality we currently face, I want to offer a different perspective of these objects, while also critiquing their function.

In my work, I draw from the visual forms and material palette of these objects in the built environment, and reimagine them to create new domestic objects. These works are an homage to the forms, colors, and materials objectively, while offering a symbolic critique of the ways these objects are used as a form of control.

Photos courtesy of Wasserman Projects
Copyright Nicholas Tilma, 2024.