Hyerim Shin questions cuteness with dog-stretching device

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Dog-stretching device by Hyerim Shin questions the "dark side of cuteness"

Graduate shows 2016: Royal College of Art graduate Hyerim Shin's Cuteness Tool for Dachshunds is a conceptual device that lengthens the bodies of sausage dogs.

The tool is worn as a harness that wraps around the dog's body, and rests behind the front and back legs. A mechanism on top of the device would allow owners to rotate a handle that lengthens the tool's central bar, gradually stretching the dog's body over time.

Cuteness Tool for Dachshunds by Hyerim Shin

A student in the MA Design Products course, Shin designed the device after researching similar tools and methods used by humans, like corsets and footbinding, as well as DIY beauty tools from South Korea.

The tool is also based on the practices of the designer dog industry, in which animals are bred for certain physical characteristics – in this case, the exaggerated long body of the Dachsund. These features are often linked to health issues, such as hip dysplasia and back problems.

"I want to demonstrate a dark side of cuteness with this piece," Shin told Dezeen. "This can be seen as 'artificial cuteness', because humans have bred dogs to become more cute."

"Their changed shape causes illness in the dogs which is the negative aspect behind a dog's cute appearance," she added. "In this example, cuteness can often disguise negative circumstances and my work focuses on its hidden secrets."

Cuteness Tool for Dachshunds by Hyerim Shin

The device is part of a trio of projects created by Shin, all themed around the Japanese concept of kawaii. The series also features a range of "cute" kitchen appliances, like a toaster that sneezes out breadcrumbs.

"People think cute is just for kids," she said. "Cuteness is powerful and used in many fields in contemporary society. With this project I aim to demonstrate the politics of cuteness, its power and why it is interesting."

Cuteness Tool for Dachshunds by Hyerim Shin

Shin's project is on display as part of the ShowRCA 2016 graduate exhibition. Dezeen is media partner for the event, which is taking place at the Royal College of Art's Kensington campus from 26 June to 3 July.

Other designs included in the show include a prototype for a set of erotic devices that offer a sensation-focused alternative to sex toys and a milk-based alternative to hydrocarbon plastics.