Adelaide Festival Review: Schuldfabrik is a sustainable system of upcycling guilt

One of the more obscure installations at this year’s Adelaide Fringe was the pop-up store, Self – Human Soap. Nestled away in King William Street in the CBD, it looks as inviting as any other high-end beauty store, but this store has a marked difference to the others.

Schuldfabrik is a German word, where ‘schuld’ can mean both guilt and debt. Julian Hertzel has taken this idea to create a factory where guilt, energy and freedom are intertwined.

Dutch artist Julian Hetzel’s sustainable solution for up-cycling the excesses of the West to the third world is a business that takes the donated fat from liposuction patients and repurposes it into beautiful soap for a discerning client.

The installation consists of a limited capacity “factory” tour that begins with a washing away of guilt in a type of confessional. Secrets are whispered, candles are lit, we purge our guilt in darkness.

The next stop on the tour is an explanation of the liposuction process by Dr. Hennie Spronk. She explained how over the years our standards of beauty have changed, from thin Twiggy-like bodies, to breast augmentation surgery inspired by Pamela Anderson in Baywatch. Currently, there is a surge in women wanting surgery to create larger foreheads and pointier chins to match the forced perspective of the “selfie”, the new standard of beauty.

Hertzel had resistance to using a “bio-waste” product in an item for consumption, so there ere plenty of legal agreements on display to allow this controversial use. One room was devoted to the science behind the collection of liposuction fat and an explanation of the soap manufacturing process.

Next stop on the tour was in a back room with two guys pumping iron on exercise machines. Curiously there was a machine to print labels on the product carry bags. We tourists managed to print a bag each at the bidding of one of the gym jocks. This was a wry nod at the sweatshop mentality, both in third world countries and in modern gym culture.

Following this room, there was a moment of reflection, where classical music accompanied an installation of soap bubbles rising and falling rhythmically. Soothing and refreshing, after the hard work in the sweatshop, it was an appropriate metaphor for cleansing.

Finally we meet the CEO of Schuldfabrik in his office (Orion Maxted). He is installed behind a glass wall so we need headphones to communicate. He is fervent about the beauty and social responsibility of the company. Guilt as energy to feed the poor; it’s an infinite loop.

All too soon the tour is over and we head back into the showroom where we have a chance to wash away our guilt with the help of our consultant Revé Terborg and can purchase a bar of soap. Sales of this soap help provide fresh water and soap to a village in DCR (Democratic Republic of Congo), so we fulfill our moral duty and debt.

This is a installation that is not simply washed away from the mind. It stays with you and challenges your ideas of beauty and self. Wash the pain away!


For tour dates and further information please visit:

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