Through the metamorphic conversion of discarded paraphernalia given a second life, art created from materials otherwise destined for a landfill has turned waste into resource. In a conscious reflection of a recycled object’s inherent value as a cultural statement, the fragmented disarray of salvaged goods conjoin as a reflection on the surplus of consumerism. Computer relics and plastic toys from the 1990’s resurface as jarring, three-dimensional works that reestablish a value beyond their initial introduction as cultural commodities. Extending the life of goods long since forgotten, the immortalization of a wastefulness that continues to swell stands as not only a poignant reminder of the ecological decay resulting from our consumption, but the opportunity to revisit and remake otherwise quotidian, superfluous goods.
Working predominately, if not entirely, with upcycled goods, the following artists create stunning installation and sculptural works that are a visual whirlpool of texture, color and line.
There’s a pervasive sense of childlike fantasy that seems to underline many pop surrealist works. Make-believe animals that don checkered coats, tight rope walkers and re-imagined cats all vibrate within and beyond the confines chosen by each artist at hand.
The alluring world of pop surrealism frequently ushers in a sense of mythical innocence and humor, unifying the superficial world of popular culture with the recesses of the unconscious. With underlying themes of fragility and the macabre delicately hidden beneath a veil of cultural kitsch, saccharine sweet dreamscapes transform and redefine a caustically bright world enamored with packaged goods. The fantastical worlds created through the lens of the following artists explores the relationship between the seemingly pristine and the accompanying bittersweet decay that dwells beneath it. Featured artists include: Casey Weldon, Mac Sorro, Rafael Silveira, Leslie Ditto, and Britt Ehringer.
With an interest in merging consumer culture and fine art practices, Norwegian photographer Vilde Rolfsen takes the most ubiquitous piece of global consumerism, a plastic grocery bag, and creates a series of photographs that, with the assistance of modified lighting and colored cardboard, showcase a an ephemeral landscape, reminiscent of snowscapes or dancing oceans. The plastic bags used for this project were all sourced from the street; this is a very minor but important fact that underlines Rolfsen’s ultimate mission:
My findings have showed me that people take everyday objects for granted, for example a plastic bag or a Brillo pad. You use them for a couple of things, carry your groceries or scrub your dishes. By removing the objects from their original function, I am forcing the viewer to look at the object as an aesthetic thing rather than a useful thing. I challenge society’s perceptions of everyday objects, because these objects are of such normality they become surreal in a photograph.
Anonymous Spanish art collective Luzinterruptus has installed their latest public interventionist project, “Consumerist Christmas Tree”, as part of Lumiere, a citywide celebration of light that takes place in Durham, England. To construct this 9 meter high tree, the group asked people to donate their plastic bags in exchange for cloth ones, resulting in a donation of around 4,000 bags. In addition to the tree, Luzinterruptus created strands of garland by installing lights in leftover bags and hanging them across streets. According to the artists, the tree “is an installation that will help to raise awareness of the excessive use of plastic bags and the consequences that this consumption has on the environment…We thought about a grand Christmas tree, built of the bags used during the period prior to Christmas, the dates in which their use dramatically increases.” (via unknown editors)
Born in Tehran, amidst the 1980s political suffering and strife, Nouar’s family fled to Germany and then the US, where she resides today. Her oil and acrylic paintings touch on vintage commercial Americana with a sinister twist– but without being too cynical. Instead, each dollop of cream or slice of pie provokes a more tempting side of advertising, where the taste of nostalgia and its childlike promises are the main indulgence.
On this theme, the artist elaborates, “I have always been completely fascinated by our massive consumer culture and often feel everything around us is a commercial, constantly manipulating us into desiring things we don’t really have a need for, or shouldn’t want in the first place.”
Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro’s large scale installations leave us feeling a bit overwhelmed or claustrophobic, and this is perhaps maybe the point. Their installations use recyclables to not only emphasize the gluttony of spending, but even more so, to confront the looming power of clutter and our strange animalistic aversion and contrasting need for it.
Of their work, the two say, we “live in such an organized society where detritus is not an issue. You put your garbage in a bin, and it goes somewhere. When you start to look at detritus, you automatically think about refuse. Or even more about consumption…getting caught up in the cycle of consume, consume, consume. And how these objects start to quantify your life.”