The First Law of Kipple

“No one can win against kipple, he said, except temporarily and maybe in one spot”, Phillip K Dick, 1968, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’.


Dan Tobin Smith’s installation is inspired by Dick’s literary invention, Kipple, which describes the “useless objects and detritus that accumulate and surround us.”

The installation explores Kipple’s parallels with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, describing that all heat in the universe flows from a hot ordered state into a cold disordered one and predicting the eventual heat death of the universe.

‘The First Law of Kipple’ is made up of a colour spectrum of thousands of useless objects, by design or by state.


Although the components of this installation seem ironic to include in a blog exploring great design, the installation as a whole is another matter entirely. The viewer is confronted by a veritable ocean of debris, blending into each other in a carefully placed gradient of colour. To give useless objects a new lease of life in order to inspire and entertain visitors is, to me, an example of great design regardless of its usefulness or worldly contributions, even if the deeper meaning of the piece is rather more morbid than the images might suggest.

Installations such as this one can be a physical manifestation of a concept that is difficult to grasp through thought alone. Physically exploring the space around the debris allows the viewer to think as they walk and to understand its complexity and message. This particular display, I find astounding as it draws people in with it’s unique beauty and keeps them there as they strive towards deeper understanding through exploration and introspection combined. While I find it difficult to quantify, I see this installation as great design because it inspires deep consideration through allowing thoughts to be cultivated and complex concepts to be mulled over and understood in a guided spacial exploration.



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