when is enough, enough? – December 2008

What better way to escape a bitterly cold December evening than the cosy environs of the Wellcome Collection’s members’ club for the 12th at abrahams to ask the tough, topical and necessary question: When is enough, enough?

Before the event there was a chance to view the Wellcome Collection’s major exhibition ‘War+Medicine’ open after hours especially for us. Just in case it was needed, the exhibition provided a stark reminder of the realities of war, putting the theme of the evening’s discussion into context.

With an audience full-to-bursting ensconced in the Club Room ( designed by Studioilse; a cross between an ‘old skool’ school room and a quirky science lab) a warm welcome from the Trust’s Rachel Collins kicked off proceedings.

Our chair for the evening, Neil Christie, MD of award winning ad agency Wieden+Kennedy made no bones that his company was in the business of selling. For their clients, enough can never be enough.

Writer and New Scientist reporter, Colin Barras argued that ‘enough’ was not a word present in most scientists’ vocabularies. They tend to ignore what society considers enough believing that they will be proved right in the long run. He cited an array of examples including the recent hysteria over the possibility that the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider could cause the end of the world; to recent news that the Vatican has admitted that Galileo was right after all. And in a bizarre case of life imitating art – he showed a clip from the famous 1951 film ‘The Man in the White Suit’ (starring Alec Guinness as an obsessed chemist who invents a fabric that resists wear and stains) followed by another clip, this time demonstrating a new coating that yes, you guessed it – repels dirt and water.

Joseph Young, Rowena Easton and Mike Blow – aka The Neo Futurist Collective took the audience on an exhilarating and contemplative journey with short performances of pre-recorded and live music with spoken words cut and pasted into sound montages. The Collective transform the everyday language of urban sounds and visual junk (spam emails, billboards, high street advertising, traffic noise and more) into multi-medium experiences that question our assumptions about the modern world of information overload.

Dr Frances Corner, Head of the London College of Fashion, raised some big moral dilemmas, making the case that the fashion industry not only reflects the times but is also responsible for shaping taste. Given that as consumers we have so much choice, from exclusive luxury brands to mass produced, sweat shop labour garments, she questioned what are the ethics of style today?

Our final speaker Andy Pag could be considered the perfect example of an individual who had reached the point of ‘enough is enough’ and takes action. Yet he became a bona fide eco campaigner quite by accident trying to realise his dream of driving from London to Timbuktu on a non-existent budget. His solution, a truck powered by cocoa butter (a waste product from the chocolate industry) was the world’s first carbon negative expedition. He followed this with Grease to Greece, a ‘fat-finding’ driving challenge to Athens where teams had to scavenge waste cooking oil from restaurants along the way to fuel their vehicles. Amazingly, all 10 teams taking part made it to the final destination without using fossil fuel.

The event was photographed by Yuki Sugiura and illustrated by Ken Chung.