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James Beckett: The Sceptical Structures of Max

Artist James Beckett shines light on inventor Max Himmelheber, who modernised particleboard. Originally an act of frugality, Himmelheber bound the waste of sawmills with phenol resin, resulting in a highly versatile, stable product. Also known as chipboard, this material has spawned a love-hate relationship due its disposability, and more recently discovered environmental impact. Almost pre-empting the material’s pitfalls, Himmelheber turned his attention to a set of philosophical writings on humanity’s role in an industrialised world, displaying a culturally conservative distrust of unchecked technical progress. His character permeates these pages, as we learn of his multiple intersections of boy scouting, Shintoism and environmentalism. Through a historical account of this little-known figure, ‘The Sceptical Structures of Max’ is as much a lucid memento mori as a call to reimagine our relation to the environment. The book includes a contribution by and conversation with Dirk van Weelden.

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