Recycling objects and turning them into art is nothing new. As far back as 1913, Marcel Duchamp created a sculpture using a bicycle wheel and a stool, challenging onlookers to look at trash in a different way.
Today, artists everywhere are turning to garbage for materials and inspiration, questioning the assumptions of our throw-away culture. Their message is pointedly environmental: if we are to survive as a species, we need to reconsider our relationship with material goods. Collectors, artists and hobbyists everywhere are demonstrating that perfectly good possessions – or things in need of a little care and attention – are discarded in volumes and at a frequency we should think twice about.
The argument becomes even more compelling when such objects are used to make works of art. Hiroshi Fuji creates sculptures from old toys, Khalil Chishtee uses discarded plastic bags.
This drive to recycle material through art is encouraged by community and arts organizations everywhere, including Art of Recycle, a group in Pennsylvania, in the United States, that helps teachers and students use discarded items as learning tools.
In Montreal, home of Cirque du Soleil, ARTÉ Montreal is a community group dedicated to artfully recycling material left at the city’s drop-off centers.
Just as the circus arts constantly challenge us to reconsider our humanity and our potential, these individuals and groups make us rethink our relationship to what we buy, use and discard.