It’s a simple and poignant concept: A tiny plant in a transparent backpack as the sole source of sustenance in a bombed-out world. Chiu Chih’s “Survival Kit for the Ever-Changing Planet” bounced around the design web on the strength of these images, with only glimmers of information about their provenance. But the artist’s backstory make it all the more interesting.
The project was ostensibly a school project for Wuhan University, where Chih studied industrial design. “My project wasn’t what my teachers expected,” he says. His stubborn insistence on his vision was, he says, something he learned as an intern at Qiao Design. “When I finished the work, my teachers changed their mind.”
The work was inspired by Chih’s own life. He was born in Taiwan and is currently a soldier in the Taiwanese army, but at nine years old moved to mainland China. “Life was hard for a kid, everything I used to use, to eat, to play with were not available,” he says. “For me, TV programs, foods, toys from Taiwan and my family education are just like the planet in the backpack, supporting me to live.”
Chiu designed the backpack and had it manufactured for 800 RMB (or about $132), saying it’s easy “to manufacture things in this largest world factory.” It was used only for these photographs, taken in Wuhan, where classmates posed as models. None of the landscape was altered. “Air was bad, traffic was bad,” Chih says. “It’s highly polluted.”