Posts Tagged ‘bottle caps’

El Anatsui

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ghanaian-born/Nigerian-dwelling artist El Anatsui uses all kinds of cool trash in his work: from would-be discarded casava graters to the caps used to top off local home brew, to milk tins and so on. Check out  the National Museum of African Art Web site for more images and to hear the artist himself describe his work, such as the Crumbling Wall pictured here.

Crumbling Wall

Crumbling Wall

T Magazine also did a pretty good piece back in February detailing the “pop recycling” and overall “Africanness” to El Anatsui’s deceptively simple pieces that fuse everyday materials into works of art. Thanks to art historian Media Farzin for the tip.

Flipping the flop

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

While in Kampala a few weeks ago, I stopped in at one of my favorite stores in the world, Banana Boat, and went on a semi-conflicted shopping spree among their fine upcycled crafts made by women’s collectives from all over Africa. I bought up a dozen strands of Ugandan paper beads for my girlfriends, homemade soap wrapped in homemade paper for my colleagues and a collection of small creatures fashioned out of bottle caps including this three piece band, now residing at my friend’s music studio in Brooklyn.

Bottlcap boogie

Bottlecap boogie

Ok, full disclosure. I went more than once and to more than one Banana Boat location during my week in Uganda. I couldn’t help it. While normally I try to buck the inner American, my desire to consume flares at the sight of trash. The the irony of upcylcing is that it makes me want to buy MORE.

The first wave of  my Banana Boat binge was stopped short by the pricetag on a string of plastic foam beads. The moment I saw them, I knew they were made of old flip flops—likely washed up on the shores of Kenya—and, because of this, I grabbed them up. But then I saw they cost roughly $30 U.S. and I looked again and decided, actually, big foam beads on a short choker strand might be a little too UN chic for my blood. So I set down the hideous necklace and made my way deliberately to the woven basket and cardboard diorama section of the store.

It was hard to walk away. Physically hard, because my urge to buy something was so strong it nearly made me twitchy. The little voices in my head debated the novelty of flip flop jewelry versus the reality of its ugliness, the feel good return of purchasing upcyled crafts from women’s collectives versus my uneasiness with the price, the uniqueness of the product versus the fancy UniquEco logo. One of the necklaces had a tag declaring “flipflop (i was)”. I took note of the confirmation that these were indeed flipped flops upcycled by Kenyan fishing communities. And I took note of the all lowercase tagline and pretentious use of parentheses. Ugh, I thought, branding.

I left the store feeling very proud of my resolve.

The next day I dropped $50 on a hot pink rhino doll/statuette from the same company. It’s adorable with a sleek and marbled hide created by a fused pile of flip flops of similar but not identical colors. This, I thought, will liven up my bookshelf. Or hip up my office. It carries a message that is both political and fun. It will make for a cool blog post and spread envy among my friends. I NEED this.

More tales to come of Kenya and consumption.

Trashtastic Tuesday with Bryant Holsenbeck

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My friend Lydia recently tipped me off to the work of artist Bryant Holsenbeck and was kind enough to put me in touch with the creative environmentalist for a little Q and A on the motivations behind her whimsical works creating bright and lively installations out of trash.

everydaytrash: Do you see your work as political?

Holsenbeck: Yes–I see my work as from the gut, personal, political. People do not want to see their trash. The quantity component of my work is very important. We just have so much (use it once or 20 times for that matter) stuff. Use it and then trow it “Away” Where is Away? In the US, most people are not concerned with this.

everydaytrash: I love the idea of wildlife made from trash, what brought about your Wildlife installation and what other birds and beasts have you created from discarded materials since?

Holsenbeck: Wild life–because we are taking up the space for wild animals. We like to see deer, but not in our gardens. What animals will be able to survive as we take over all of the wild and natural habitats. I feel very fortunate when I see birds soaring in the sky. Wild. Where do they live? As developers bulldoze and we stamp on all insects because they are “in our way” We are ruining our habitat as well. I am lucky to live in a neighbor hood where I see rabbits and chipmunks–and yesterday close to town–I saw a fawn running for the woods–white tail up. Our worlds are getting closer and closer–I hope we can live with wild animals–They do not have a voice. “WILD” is about watching for wild animals–being glad when I see them. Keeping my eyes open for what is there.

everydaytrash: Your bottlecap pieces are so intricate: how long do they take to create and what’s your process for collecting materials?

Holsenbeck: I have collected bottle caps for about 10 years. I have reached current maximum storage capacity of about 100,000 caps. The collection was mostly easy–It was continual. Certain friends family and neighbors designated themselves as collectors. For some people, it just became part of their recycling process. I am used to arriving home to a bag of “stuff” on my front porch. I am grateful to all of these people for collecting. Each cap is a record of something consumed–and we are doing this all of the time. The hard part for me has been keeping the caps sorted by color and making sure they are clean.
Here is what is important–not that many families collected for me–but over time, it mounts up. How many jars of apple sauce did you and your family eat last year–then multiply times 10–any product over time–we eat to survive and the caps are the non-biodegradable record

Photos ripped from the artist’s site.

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