20 July 2010

Eric Sun's Existential Lament

Reposted in full from The Age, 20 July 2010

'Eric Sun is not a happy little mobile phone. In fact, he's up to his aerial in the gloom of an existential crisis. After little more than 12 months, his owner has abandoned him for a sleek, sexy new model.

Perched uneasily on the edge of the couch in his psychologist's office, he pauses, gathers his thoughts, bottom lip quivering. ''I just feel really worthless,'' he stutters eventually. ''My career has only lasted for one year.

''I need a new life, doc, a new direction! There has to be more to life than being stuck in a drawer.''

Eric Sun is the chief protagonist of Life Psycle-ology, a short animated film to be launched on Thursday as part of the State of Design Festival broaching issues surrounding eco-design and the life cycle of consumer products. The difference being that the film, which is the first in the series The Secret Life of Things, does so with a smile.

''Eco-design has a PR problem and it's not being communicated very well,'' says Leyla Acaroglu, who developed and directed the film through her eco-design consultancy Eco Innovators. ''We're trying to use humour to engage people on another level.''

''A lot of the information that is around on sustainability and environmental stuff can be quite depressing and can be quite disempowering,'' continues the 27-year-old. ''Explaining all the facts and presenting all the doom and gloom side of things, on the one hand, is important, because we all need to get to a point of understanding about the issues, but we also wanted to empower people about what they can do.''

Originally conceived as an educational resource for design students, the film traces Eric Sun's emotional journey through past-life regression therapy. He learns of his source materials: gold from South Africa, palladium from Brazil, platinum from Russia, silver from Mexico and nickel from Australia. He recalls the joy of regular use and the dismay of failing memory and shortened battery life, only to learn of the possibilities of disassembly, resource recovery and reuse in other electronic products such as USB flash drives and digital cameras.

The mobile phone - something of a poster child for the new generation of high-turnover, comparatively disposable consumer technology - seemed the perfect hook through which to launch the film series. Indeed, according to a recent global consumer survey by Finnish telecommunications company Nokia, only 3 per cent of mobile users internationally recycle their mobile phones. Other studies have the figure even lower.

''The whole thing is based around the idea of product life cycles and trying to come up with a clever way to sort of portray that,'' says animator Nick Kallincos, who originally came up with the Eric Sun character. ''The mobile phone just felt right.''

''This is a thing that we all use all the time and are largely unaware of all the materials and all the hidden things beneath it.''

Acaroglu agrees. ''Here were all these quite complex issues, but when Nick came back with this idea of this sad little mobile phone going to his doctor's office having this existentialist crisis and past-life regression therapy, you just knew instantly that it was perfect,'' she says.

The Secret Life of Things launches at 6pm on Thursday at the EPA Offices, Carlton. Phone: 8669 2046.

Life Psychle-ology screens at 2pm and 6.30pm daily at the Federation Square Big Screen until July 25.'

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