wasteland 2.0: Fake recycling
TEXT ABOUT WASTELAND 2.0
WRITTEN BY ISABEL PESTANA
hARTslane Gallery, London, UK
WASTELAND 2.0: FAKE RECYCLING is a collaborative installation by Wastelanders Artist Collective: Lelia Byron, Ka Ian Hoi, Pui Pui Ip, and Rita Castanheira. Wastelanders Artist Collective is a group of international artists who together make collaborative site-specific installations related to the theme of “waste.” Installation topics of the collective include fake recycling, coral bleaching, sensationalism in urban life, contemporary spirituality, the destructiveness of progress in modern society, and other environmental issues.
Recycling happens when something is reused or re-purposed so that it can have another life cycle, creating a circular pattern. But, if only a small percentage of what people put in recycling bins is actually recycled, is the circle then simply a mirage? An open line, an open lie?
In a special collaboratIon with hARTslane, this exhibitIon brings together four artIsts from the MA Fine Art programme at Chelsea College of Art to explore the meaning of recycling. Wasteland 2.0 is a visual reflectIon of the struggle the consumer faces once a product — in this case a plastIc bag — is used and later discarded in the hopes of turning into something else.
The site-specific work represents a spiral of used plastIc bags sewn together. They hang from the ceiling all the way to the ground, creatIng a circular corridor that leads to a dead-end. Along this path the visitor notices the variety of plastIc bags that were collected from several countries by the artIsts, revealing the global implicatIon of recycling malpractIces. Unlike the ideal narratIve of the recycling process, this spiral becomes an extension of the nonlinear mechanisms involved in the actual processes of recycling. Most of the products designated onto recycling plants do not undergo the process of becoming new products, rather are left to accumulate into piles of waste.
Along the way, reduce, reuse, recycle, became only the latter, conferring to the consumer the responsibility of tackling the problem of waste through recycling — even though the infrastructure to process these products did not evolve parallel to the amount of waste produced — while alleviatIng corporaIons from reducing their productIon.
Ka Ian Hoi, Lelia Byron, Rita Castanheira, and Pui Pui Ip, who explore different media in their individual practIces, came together to examine the noIon of waste after having witnessed the amount of trash produced every year while in art school. Unlike other subjects, the waste produced from art practIces is made visible through the awareness of students towards their need for new materials, and their commitment to the idea that new materials may result in better work. The artists also drew inspiratIon from the quilt, as developed in the work of the artist Faith Ringgold, as a symbol for comfort. In a way, the patchwork produced by the assemblage of the plastIc bags can be understood in parallel to the image of the quilt, and the comfort the quilt generates can be equated to the pleasure of buying into something, in this case, the pleasure obtained from the idea that recycling puts the consumer in the right place.
This exhibitIon also plays with the definitIon of circle as presented by a Coca Cola ad from last month, and reveals how little the approach towards recycling has changed over the past 60 years. The task of reducing pollutIon was first attributed to the consumer in 1953 with the lobbying group Keep America BeautIful, a group founded by Pepsi and Coke and Phillip Morris, whose slogan was “People Start PollutIon, People can Stop it.” The Coca Cola video ad from September 2019 “PlastIc round in circles,” shows a line that quickly shifts into a curved line, giving back the consumer the job of recycling plastIc bottles. As the ad claims, “they are easier to recycle and turn into new ones again.”
Wasteland 2.0 is the third installment of a series of exhibitIons about waste that have been taking place since April 2019, the first one entItled Wasteland at Filet in London, and the second Wastetank at Centro Comercial de Cedofeita in Porto, Portugal. The current exhibitIon is an invitation to debate what happens to products when we dispose of them, as well as a reminder of the scale of the recycling problem.