Art from trash

21 August 2002

The Fantastic Rubbish Art Exhibition, showcasing how valuable rubbish can be, runs at the Ubuntu Village at the Wanderers in Johannesburg until 6 September as part of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Artworks, showcased in containers, are made from rubbish ranging from scrapyard objects to melted plastic and telephone directories.

To reach the containers, one follows a footpath through a maze which could easily be mistaken for a scrapyard, because its high walls are made of scrap metal and discarded household appliances.

“The exhibition brings together South African artists and crafters from diverse backgrounds,” says Jeanne Hoffman, the exhibition’s co-ordinator.

“The intention is to provide a platform for communication between the artists and crafters on the one hand, and the general public on the other, and to inspire thoughts and discussions around the environment and waste specifically.”

The Talking House

 

Discussions happen at the end of the exhibition in a “South African Talking House” built by French artists and South African crafters from KwaZulu-Natal. Constructed out of crates and plastic, it looks like a shack – but inside there is a pool table and sound-sensitive lights that shine brightly when you shout and dimly when you whisper – art and technology in action.

 

 

 

The idea behind the collaboration was to bring artists and crafters together, says French artist Guy-Andre Lagesse, and share ideas.

So you enter the exhibition through Willem Boshoff’s scrap metal maze “Sculpture Garden” and exit via a talking house – and in between, you can feast your eyes on all the fantastic art that can be made out of metal, paper and plastic.

Windmills, for example. At the exhibition area, Ferdi Hartzenberg’s scrap metal windmills are planted like trees in front of the containers. They are kinetic, wind activated – and seen from a distance, they acquire a certain beauty.

Cape Town art teacher Liza Grobler has populated an artificial landscape inside one container with trees and animals all made out of folded telephone directories and plastic strip off-cuts – a remarkable paper jungle. She is inspired by traditional woman’s handiwork like crocheting and knitting, she says.

Another art teacher, Chris Gous from Pretoria West, took his Heuwel Primary students to scrapyards to collect the junk they needed for building vehicles. They amassed a pile of computer parts, wires and small black tyres – and built a range of machines, from bakkies to motorcycles to a shiny spacecraft, all on display in his container.

Gous’s eye-catching Filter of Hope is shaped like a box, and made out of scrap waste material. Inside, it has blue coloured water with bubbles made possible by oxygen pumped through aquarium pumps, and electric bulbs that flicker, all held together by screws and glue – and none of it particularly useful. “Filter of Hope,” he says, “shows a good and bad side of humankind in contrast, and also reveals the bad side of technology.”

Mbongeni Buthelezi’s goal is somewhat more immediate, or so he says: “My work portrays my deepest feelings, which is having fun while I work.” He melts plastic – the colourful sort of plastic one gets from cool-drink six-packs – and paints with it on a plastic canvas, placing one layer over another.

He could not afford paint and canvas when he began making art, he says, and as time elapsed, “I recognised the significance that my art material has on the environment.” He is inspired by his surroundings in Soweto, just his day-to-day experiences, he says.

There are 10 containers, showing the work of nearly double that number of artists.

This arty-trashy mission is hosted at Ice Station Johannesburg, built by Mission Antarctica, an international environmental organisation that took 35 young people to the South Pole in 1996 on a mission to clean up 1 000 tons of industrial waste from the icy shores.

For more information about Mission Antarctica, see www.missionantarctica.com or www.earthship.co.za

Source: City of Johannesburg web site