A.R.M - all recycled material A.R.M - ein performatives
gesellschaftsprojekt von barbara caveng

A.R.M works on the private sphere of living viewing increasing social poverty.

A.R.M examines the relations between public and private existence, particularly in view of aesthetics as a means of expressing individual sensual perception and its creative translation into action.

A.R.M deals with the cycle of the value and devaluation of work and material goods in society and investigates a possible relation between the two.

A.R.M is a furniture project.

A.R.M uses society's refuse and recycles it into objects of individual design.

A.R.M makes a contribution to coping with a life without money and to developing strategies against social declassification as a result of poverty and unemployment.

A.R.M combines art with social and political reality.


A.R.M, or better living

the idea for the project was born after the german minister of finance had published
the subsistence level report for the year 2005 and a public debate about the introduction of alg II (unemployment funds) and its implications for the individual lives had started.

for the year 2005 the german minister of finance set the physical subsistence level at 613 euros per month and person, which is equivalent to a social security contribution of 345 euros per month and person in west germany and 331 euros per month and person in east germany.

according to the finance minister's definition, the amounts for both west and east are supposed to cover the expenses for food and personal hygiene, household effects, clothing as well as satisfying other personal everyday needs. also included in the allowances for both west and east are 11 euros for the hot-water supply. as far as the required living space is concerned, for single persons an apartment with a living area of up to 30 sq. m. with simple furnishing is considered adequate. the basic rent (including operating expenses but without heating) is set at 216 euros. both person_west and person_east are granted 50 euros per month for heating expenses (1).

however, apart from this merely physical view of poverty on the part of the government, there is also a socio-cultural subsistence level, i.e. a minimum level of participation in social and cultural life:

"the disadvantaged segment of the population is described as being 'poor' because its socio-cultural minimum subsistence level that goes beyond the mere physical existence

is not assured. here, poverty is of a multidimensional nature, because the poor live in a situation of total deprivation. apart from the inadequate supply of material goods and services, they also have to put up with an immaterial undersupply in terms of their cultural and political participation as well as their psychosocial situation. people for whom it is impossible to participate in the general way of life are considered to be living below the poverty level." (2)

unemployed people are threatened with a twofold "devaluation" – not only do they lose their status and position in society, but also the financial means necessary to participate in social life according to material, social and cultural standards.

A.R.M, or affordable solutions

"the world is the alphabet we decipher. one's dwelling is the alpha and omega. we live." – vilém flusser

the personal space, as defined by one's own four walls, is of fundamental importance: the dwelling is a refuge from the world, but, at the same time, is also a starting point to approach it. dwellings reflect the inhabitants' view of the world. furnishing and style – or even refraining from it – make the inhabitants' personality visible. the dwelling is used to create an image of the individuality. dwelling is a process which documents changes in the state of mind and the personal situation in life. moreover, furniture and fitments are consumer goods which are, more or less, acquired to follow trends in society and, thus, indicate a certain social status.

the average annual per capita spending on furniture in germany amounts to 400 euros, which is more than in any of the other european countries (3). with a total turnover of 2.45 billion euros in 2003 (which is an increase in sales of 10% compared with 2002) IKEA is still the leading seller in the furniture industry in germany (4). the IKEA products have now created a standard to such an extent that they have a formative influence on people's style and taste.

surrounding oneself with IKEA furniture means being up to a mainstream social standard and, thus, being on the safe side when it comes to social acceptance. however, who can afford the IKEA products with 11 or 10 euros a day anyway? for the bookshelf classic "billy" no less than 35 euros have to be raised, while the simple sofa bed "GRANIKULLA" is available for 99 euros (without a mattress).


A.R.M, or all recycled material

walking through urban space is like flipping through a furniture catalogue. the individual privation is contrasted by the mountains of rubbish of the affluent society, weighing 400 million tons per year.

if this rubbish is regarded as a resource, the streets and public spaces are self-service areas for furniture components such as wood, glass, metal as well as necessary parts such as hinges, screws, angles or mechanical elements.

A.R.M digs in the rubbish on the street, collects it and turns it into objects of better living.

A.R.M stands for individual furniture design and an aesthetic of poverty beyond social romance. Time and energy are the alternative currency.

between october '04 and may '05, an entire two-room apartment in berlin-mitte was equipped based on the A.R.M principle.

A.R.M sees itself as a provider of ideas and services

  • we'll be glad to offer workshops to cultural and social institutions as well as associations and societies.
  • we also accept requests from private individuals and provide help if possible.
  • A.R.M carries out projects in public spaces as well as exhibitions in galleries and museums.
  • it is intended to cooperate with industry training centres.

however, A.R.M furniture is also available for purchase.


Sources and quotations:
(1) fifth subsistence level report, ministry of finance, 2/2004
(2) poverty in germany, nathalie lewis, 1999
(3) verband der deutschen möbelindustrie (association of the germany furniture industries), 2003
(4) Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 10th August 2004

© barbara caveng | support: anmut e.V. | kontakt & impressum