Junk Artists – 10 Creative Works Made Out of Trash
Generally speaking, one man’s trash is another man’s… well, trash (that’s why they’re called “landfills” and not “land-empties”). But every now and then there’s a truly gifted artist who takes pedestrian, throw-away – even icky –items and transforms them into a fascinating conversation piece that can hold its own among the great art works of the world. Proving that there’s more than one way to recycle, here are ten creative works cut, crafted and carved from trash.
10. House of Contamination
The name of the project may be alarming, but relax and leave your hazmat suit at home; the House of Contamination (which has been described as more a village due to the large area involved) is not actually stuffed full of viruses looking to hitchhike. Instead, it is a large structure made from old pieces of garbage (such as kitchen appliances and unwanted clothes). Like any house, this one has furniture. There are bookshelves made from discarded refrigerators and chairs made from stacks of stinky clothes, etc. The project is itself a work of art, demonstrating how waste can be repurposed into useful things, such as building materials. It also serves the secondary purpose of acting as a cultural centre that houses other art forms, including dance, theatre and music.
The extensive metal sculpture called Forevertron sits in a Wisconsin yard with all the appearance of a very old scrap pile – at least from a distance. Up close, the sculpture comes alive, revealing itself to be intricate and extensive. The nature and intent behind Forevertron is primarily whimsical; it advances the fictional narrative of the steampunk, Victorian genius Dr. Evermor, who built an anti-gravity machine capable of sending him straight to God’s doorstep (in an ascendant, non-violent, sort of way). That machine, along with a spaceship, a telescope, a listening device and (of course) a teahouse, make up Forevertron, though there are also assorted sculptures and in the surrounding park. If it has a genuine antique feel, it’s because the pieces, which are the artwork of Tom Every, are comprised of old scrap that date back in part to that other famous inventor, Thomas Edison.
8. The Rock Garden
This secret garden was built by the artist Nek Chand, who went through India, gathering together pieces of pottery, cement and other junk left in the wake of numerous demolitions. Slowly, he built up the garden into his own interpretation of utopia, where rock dancers and little concrete creatures frolic unperturbed. The garden stayed secret for a long time (eighteen years!) but it didn’t stay small – Chand’s picture of perfection grew to as large as 12 acres, featuring even several waterfalls. Currently, the scenic area is protected and maintained by a special Rock Garden Society and is a somewhat popular tourist attraction. Still, all that success hasn’t gone to Chand’s head; every addition to his rock garden is still made up of other people’s trash.
The sailors of this boat set sail with a mission in mind: to alert the world about the problem of plastic waste winding up in the ocean (and also about the broader problems caused by creating so much waste, period). plastiki1 To do this, they boarded the earth-friendly Plastiki, designed by David E. Rothschild. In order to illustrate how plastic could be put to better uses, the Plastiki’s cabin and surrounding areas are comprised of a recycled plastic called srPET and glued together with a special substance made from cashews and sugar; the boat floats, in large part, due to sets of plastic bottles secured on both hulls. The crew of the Plastiki makes every effort to show that waste in general is unnecessary, even recycling their pee into water is used in a food-growing hydroponic system.
6. Buddist Temple
One million bottles of beer on the wall, one million bottles of beer… no, really. More than a million bottles of beer were transformed Wat-Pa-Maha-Chedi-Kaew2by Buddhist monks in the surrounding area of Bangkok into a beautiful temple site (called the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew Temple) where the sun hits the walls and reflects off every piece of glass. The project was intended to demonstrate two important points: first, that pollution in the area was getting out of hand and secondly, that man has the potential to create and accomplish amazing things, even turning trash into beauty. Driving home that point is the fact that every corner, wall, mural and public-accessible bathroom was made from beer bottle debris. There is no word on whether or not the inhabitants of this primarily glass house have taken a vow against throwing stones.