NGV Triennial

Jonathan Ben-Tovim
An ode to the airbag



An ode to the airbag 2019 is a kinetic standing lamp composed of automotive air bags. A pulsating tower of air and light, the work moves through a slow endless cycle of airbags inflating and de-compressing. Through this work Ben-Tovim brings attention to the Takata airbag recall of 2016. Affecting more than 100 million vehicles worldwide, the fatalities and injuries sustained from the defective devices brought to light a systemic failure in the global supply chain model, which has become central to the mass manufacture of goods in the late industrial period. An ode to the airbag is Ben-Tovim’s response to the complex network of resources, financing, production and purchasing, in which goods and the sum of their parts are en-large invisible to the consumer. By drawing attention to the airbag – an object now embroiled in one of the world’s most serious worldwide product recalls – the designer reminds us of how interconnected the world has become, and in it, the trust we place. This is the third work in a series of one-off design objects in which Ben-Tovim explores the process of transplanting reclaimed materials and objects into new contexts to uncover foreboding narratives. The work belongs to a collection of contemporary art and design works assembled for NGV Triennial around the theme of illumination.

Industrial designer Jonathan Ben-Tovim adopted a new Australian identity after moving to the country in 1984. He produces experimental lighting and furniture designs, which explore the intricacies of the global industrial economy. His designs seek to question materials, processes and supply chains implicated in the delivery of commercially mass-produced goods to uncover counter narratives. Ben-Tovim established his studio in Melbourne in 2011. Exhibiting nationally and internationally his works have been presented at Dutch Design Week (2006); Dubai Design Week (2015); Salon del Mobile, Milan (2019); and Melbourne Design Week (2015-2020). Ben-Tovim’s work is held in the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.