The 2012 Eco Art Exhibit

Rubbish reborn as art at the annual eco fair

This event is now over

The ubiquity of garbage and its inherent connection with humans remains an unexplored topic amongst even the most forward thinking of consumers. Like a disparaged offspring, human waste is ignored and discarded by its creators. Seeking to change that, the Eco Art Exhibit, held at the Yueda 889 Mall in Jingan from Wednesday 15 August, features around 200 artworks all made out of garbage, which challenges consumers to examine these everyday behaviours highlighting this integral relationship between people and their rubbish.

Created in 2009 by in-taxi media company Touchmedia, the Eco Art campaign provides creative incentives for people to become involved in environmental protection. Using art as a platform, the campaign inspires people to interact with their trash and to explore alternatives to common disposal.


“The process of taking the garbage, collecting it, sorting it and then making it into art makes you much more focused and aware of it. You realise how quickly it accumulates and in the process of making it into art you by nature understand how it can be reduced, reused and also recycled as a resource,” says Nancy Pon, the Vice President of Communications for Touchmedia.


The 2012 campaign kick-started on Friday 15 June with an interactive sorting game on taxi screens aiming to educate people about the importance of recycling and separating materials into similar groups and culminates this week with the art exhibit. Featuring 206 pieces from amateur artists around the world the show is a testament to international involvement in environmental protection with artists originating from 22 countries, ranging from 5-70 years old. International pieces were submitted as digital copies and transmitted onto stickers or large poster boards.


 “There’s value in exchanging ideas, to know that what we’re doing here is not just a Chinese initiative,” remarks Pon. “Ultimately people want to know that they’re part of something bigger.”


All submissions were then judged on the originality of the materials, the concept and the aesthetics before the four top pieces were open to public voting via a taxi-screen poll, with the first place winner receiving 5,000RMB.


The pliability of garbage has allowed participants in the contest to draw inspiration from the most unlikely of materials. Last year’s 17 year old winner, Monica Liaw from New Zealand, submitted a violin constructed out of cardboard, a windshield wiper, plastic spoons and sheet music. 

Tan Lu, a Chengdu Railways Bureau worker who won the 2010 contest, contributed a collage made out of cans to this year’s contest. “Girl with Butterfly” depicts an idyllic scene of a beautiful young girl handling a butterfly. The iridescent cans against the black background create a dramatic yet elegant vignette, a representation that seems uncharacteristic of garbage. “Making art works from discarded cans, I transferred waste garbage into art. I make them attentively, trying hard to make my artworks beautiful, colourful and stereoscopic, to let the public be aware of the environmental protection concept in a novel way. I hope to help the public rethink the garbage they used to throw away,” remarks Tan.


Artists contributing to the exhibit use common materials in a way that transcends their perfunctory limitations. In his depiction of a tree in grasslands, 18 year old Weslee Tsuei used specific resources to stress the importance of environmental protection: “I wanted to express the concept of how a new tree can be planted if people could just raise the awareness of saving the environment by recycling certain everyday materials. For example, I used the toilet paper rolls to create the tree trunk because I wanted to show that reducing paper wastes helps reduce deforestation,’ says Tsuei.


The Eco Art exhibit takes place from August 15-29 at the Yueda 889 Mall.


Melissa Hellmann