The artists turning acts of pollution into works of art

The artists turning acts of pollution into works of art
Ice, sewage and the Beijing smog creatively reimagined — Angered by the environmental chaos on their doorsteps, artists turn to their craft to vent their frustrations.

With Beijing’s ‘airpocalypse‘ continuing to reach unprecedented levels of density, the city’s artistic population is turning to the skies for inspiration.

One such artist is Nut Brother, who on November 30, 2015 completed a 100-day project to build a brick from dust and smog particles collected from the Beijing sky using a vacuum cleaner. The artist walked the streets daily with the vacuum, holding a suction nozzle up to the air and storing the collected material. On completion of the project, he mixed the airborne residue with clay to form the finished brick – a physical embodiment of the city’s smog crisis.

Nut Brother is joined by other creatives turning environmental tragedy into works of art, many as striking in their visuals as they are important statements on the desperate need for social change. Here are five more artists finding beauty in our polluted world.

Animals Made of Garbage

Facebook (Bordalo II)

Facebook (Bordalo II)

Artur Bordalo, aka Bordalo II, is a Portugese street artist. Frustrated by the continued dumping of metals, plastics and similarly eco-unfriendly objects, Bordalo trawls landfills and back streets to source material for his series of enormous 3D murals. From afar the murals are colourful and eye-catching, forming oversized images of beautiful animal life, but up close reveal a darker narrative: bodies made of crudely painted cables, car parts and ceiling fans – abandoned, man-made trash obliterating the natural world.

Juxtaposing Two Visions of India

India

With its ever-increasing population, relative lack of recycling and over-reliance on landfills, India is one of the world’s most rubbish-strewn countries. To tackle the issue, Karma Recycling, Delhi I Love You and Shaily Gupta have developed the ‘Dirty Pictures’ campaign, determining that the sheer prevalence of waste in cities makes traditional environmental advertising ill-effective. The scheme features imagery juxtaposing joyous Bollywood scenes with the environmental crisis most often encountered by locals, with movie star romances pasted on top of acres of steaming garbage.

Turning Sewage Into Paint

JohnSabraw.com

JohnSabraw.com

The polluted waters of Athens, Ohio, where drainage from local mines have been turning streams orange for years, inspired British-born, Ohio-based artist and environmentalist John Sabraw to try and combine both of his passions. Working with chemist Guy Riefler, the duo decided to extract iron oxide from the streams, turning its initial ‘wet sludge’ form into acrylic and oil-based paints. Sabraw uses the materials to create colourful psychedelic prints he refers to as the ‘Chroma sessions.’

The Glacier That Fell to Pieces

Photographer: Jens Ziehe

Photographer: Jens Ziehe

Exhibited in a refrigerated room, Olafur Eliasson’s installation ‘Your waste of time’ puts an immersive spin on the glacier crisis as the work is comprised of large pieces of ice gradually broken off of Vatnajökull, Iceland’s largest glacier. With some of the ice pieces estimated to have been formed over the course of 800 years, it is a sombre depiction of environmental devastation.

The Face Mask Bride

Photo: sina.com

Photo: sina.com

For many Beijing brides, their big day involves a local addendum that the most famous fairytales tend to leave out – the requirement of wading through blistering smog en route to the altar. For artist Kong Ning, the environmental plot twist inspired ‘Marry the Blue Sky’, a performance piece that saw her decorate a wedding dress and its accompanying train in 999 pollution filtering face masks before wandering the city streets in search of her groom, the elusive Beijing heavens. It came as no surprise when he didn’t show.

Enjoyed this article? Like Huck on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Latest on Huck

Fragile, intimate portraits of California’s imprisoned youth
Photography

Fragile, intimate portraits of California’s imprisoned youth

New monograph ‘A Poor Imitation of Death’ documents and humanises the stories of seven young Californian inmates, aged between 16 and 20 years old, who were tried as adults despite being juveniles.

Written by: Isaac Muk

I was made homeless 11 days after the Asylum decision I waited 16 years for
Election 2024

I was made homeless 11 days after the Asylum decision I waited 16 years for

After spending years waiting for a decision on his refugee status torture survivor Gideon discovered his traumatic fight for security was far from over.

Written by: Gideon, a client at Freedom from Torture

Save the date for Rishi’s Leaving Drinks
Election 2024

Save the date for Rishi’s Leaving Drinks

Huck is teaming up with our friends at Dalston Superstore and Queer House Party to bring you an election night viewing party like no other.

Written by: Ben Smoke

Activists claim victory after major UK festivals drop Barclays as a sponsor
Activism

Activists claim victory after major UK festivals drop Barclays as a sponsor

Groups and artists have been campaigning for Live Nation to drop the bank as a sponsor for Download, Latitude and Isle of Wight over alleged ties to the arms trade.

Written by: Ben Smoke

Exploring the football fanatic culture of the Middle East
Outdoors

Exploring the football fanatic culture of the Middle East

New photo book ‘Football كرة القدم’ draws together pictures from over a dozen photographers to explore the region’s vibrant football culture.

Written by: Isaac Muk

Drag artists unite to get out the vote, babes
Election 2024

Drag artists unite to get out the vote, babes

East London legend Crystal talks to Huck about her new campaign, Vote, Babes! which brings together over 20 drag artists to encourage young people to use their vote.

Written by: Ben Smoke

Sign up to our newsletter

Issue 80: The Ziwe issue

Buy it now