DETROIT — “Somewhere between architecture and a party” is one of the ways Thing Thing member Simon Anton describes his collective’s aesthetic. The rest of his fellows — Eiji Jimbo, Rachel Mulder, and Thomas Moran — smile and laugh at this assessment. We’re in the garage of the Mobile Homestead, a permanent installation on the grounds of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) that resembles the suburban ranch-style house where Metro Detroit artist Mike Kelley grew up. The Homestead’s garage is both a real and imagined space, and seems a fitting location for this experimental art and design collective, which is in residence all month, experimenting and creating objects out of shredded and recycled <2> plastics (or HDPE).
“Design is cultural production,” says Moran, an architecture and design professor at the University of Michigan who drew these outstanding students in the architecture department together to work on some projects, resulting in the conceptual foundation of Thing Thing. “They built a giant nose out of Jell-O,” he says, describing how Jimbo and Mulder caught his attention. The group works organically and without hierarchy — Moran was away recently to deliver a lecture, and in his absence, the other three developed a new technique for molding plastic, which Moran is engaged with while we speak. He pours scoops of green shredded plastic onto the surface of a hot plate, augmenting the design with swirls of white shreds. Once he is satisfied, he wraps the whole thing tightly in foil, like a meatloaf, and takes it out to cook electrically, supplemented by the bright Saturday sunshine.