Fringe Furniture is the Melbourne Fringe festival’s longest running event. Now in its 31st year, the exhibition takes place at Abbotsford Convent and showcases some of the most thought-provoking industrial design in the country.

This year, 100 established and emerging artists explore the idea that materials, objects, art and design are all political, having been asked by the organisers to “step outside the echo chamber”.

“Every visitor to the exhibition will have their own strong opinions about which works are challenging or too out there, beautiful or useless, or a work of art versus an object intended to serve a purpose,” says Fringe Furniture producer Kristina Arnott. “The huge range of objects, aesthetics and materials can't help but provoke impassioned arguments.”

The Frederick Chair by Spotswood-based Quazi Design is emblematic of the diverse display of furniture and objects. It’s a highlight – in a literal sense too – with commanding fluorescent red angular metal “wings”.

In response to the current political climate, artist Luke Macmahon’s piece, A Coffee Table for Two People to Have Coffee champions the beauty in simplicity and challenges the notion of what one might imagine a useful table and chair set to look like. His piece is a seesaw-like structure, intended as a place for a conversation and a drink between two people – it’s not appropriate for working alone on your laptop. And although it’s been designed with function in mind, the resulting piece is whimsical, with curved and jagged edges made in various materials, both solid and translucent.

“A politician adapts their beliefs on an hourly basis to accommodate whatever is trending,” Macmahon says in a statement. “Furniture often manifests itself in this way, attempting to serve too many functions and appeal to as many people as possible – resulting in unattractive pieces that we cannot trust.”

Several pieces touch on sustainability, incorporating recycled, reused, or forgotten materials. The top of Jeannie Mulligan's Third Life Stool, for example, is made from hundreds of recycled 2016 Melbourne Fringe festival programs.

Before you leave, Arnott recommends sinking into the large, enveloping, forest-coloured Atlas armchair by as I Am Design.

“It's a great place to take a moment before returning to the sensory overload of the exhibition.”

Fringe Furniture runs from Wednesday September 20 to Sunday October 1. More information on artist-led tours and the exhibition here.

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