Few materials withstand blows as well as plastic does. Its most eminent combatant, the meta-critic Roland Barthes, penned a famous essay in Mythologies denigrating the non-degradable product as “lost between the effusion of rubber and the flat hardness of metal.” Yet what really bothered Barthes about plastic was not its cheapness or chemical complexion, but its lack of pretension. Unlike other synthetics—say, zirconium or laminate, which harbor ambitions of appearing expensive—plastic never pretends to be something it’s not. For Barthes, plastic also lacked an aesthetic: It is “hollow and flat,” “engulfed in its usage.” Yet plastic has outlived Barthes, as it has often done when confronted by the organic world. Today, it is the material as much as the man that enjoys renown in sophisticated urban circles. Witness the resurgence of 1950s design classics by Verner Panton and Charles and Ray Eames. Or the more recent work of Jasper Morrison and Ron Arad. By transfiguring the solemn and the frivolous, plastic embodies the most modern of aesthetics. TwitterFacebookPinterest This story is from Kinfolk Issue Twenty-Three Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 19 Going Incognito We all secretly wonder what mischief we’d make if invisible: When our identity is hidden, everything seems possible. Arts & Culture Issue 19 The Best Policy Sometimes we talk to each other without feeling heard. Honesty—a most intimate interaction—can be just as thrilling as its more devious inverse. Arts & Culture Issue 19 A Sense of Suspense With unhinged imaginations and mountains of cliff-hangers, the filmmakers behind the sci-fi podcast Limetown have all the makings of a scary story. Arts & Culture Issue 19 Like Clockwork In this new column about time, we learn how slipping off our watches makes us feel like deadline-damning renegades. Arts & Culture Music Issue 19 On a Grander Scale Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna now may live on the opposite side of the globe, but she’s determined to evolve while staying true to her roots. Arts & Culture Issue 19 Neighborhood: Fire Stations The firefighting profession has evolved over time from Ancient Rome’s rudimentary bucket brigades to today’s sleek life-saving departments.