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Friday, July 15, 2016, 00:31

When junk is food for thought

By China Daily

Even as garbage piles up, chokingvast swathes of HK’s beaches, a Mexican art collective is trying to find meaning in all that trash.

When junk is food for thought
Mountains of waste lie underneath green nylon nettings in a landfill in Tuen Mun in this image from Ubiquitous Trash: Hong Kong Edition.

More than 90 bottle caps carrying the image of Nicholas Tse Ting-fung, the famous Hong Kong actor and singer, were lined up on the wall of Connecting Space gallery in North Point. Discarded from bottles of a soft drink brand manufactured in the Chinese mainland , these had washed up on a beach in the New Territories. IlanaBoltvinikand Rodrigo Viñas, who together make theMexicanart collective TRES, picked up these bottle caps mindlessly chucked by consumers and turned them into art. Their show, called Ubiquitous Trash: Hong Kong Edition, has just concluded at Connecting Space, but will open again elsewhere in the city in the coming months.

Earlier, TRES had put together a similar artistic experimentin their native Mexico City. Their objective is to explore therelationship between public space and garbage through art. Elements from science, anthropology and archaeology also figure in their work. The proposal for Ubiquitous Trash won theWyng Masters Award 2014-15, administered by the Hong Kong-based Wyng Foundation.

Last July, Boltvinik and Viñas spent 20 days in Hong Kong visiting local landfill sites and refuse transfer stations. They also collectedhuge amounts of trash and clicked over 6,000 photos of trash accumulating in different parts of the city. Having spent a year archiving the material they had collected, besides studying and analyzing it in great detail, TRES was back in Hong Kong earlier this month with a book and an exhibition, ready to share their research findings with concerned citizens.

The duo says they find trash — which people produce everyday, as a matter of routine — inspiring. Their obsession with garbage has taken Boltvinik and Viñasall over the world. They say a city’s trash could be a “fascinating tool” to understand its social life.“We would say we are scavengers, art-based researchers and archeologists of everyday life,” is how the pair would describe themselves.

Boltviniksays she is thrilled by the sight of trash on the street. “Stories and information about a city’s people are hidden behind every piece of trash,” she says, and Hong Kong was no exception.During their 20-days spent scavenging in Hong Kong, TRES found people discarded more plastic bottles and Styrofoam containers on a daily basis than in most other cities. “Maybe it is because of the hot weather here and also perhaps because people don’t have enough time to have a meal sitting down in an eatery. They are always opting for takeouts, hence the extensive use of Styrofoam containers.”

When junk is food for thought
The Mexican art collective TRES members Rodrigo Viñas (left) and Ilana Boltvinik take a photo break in between collecting trash in a landfill in Hong Kong.  (Provided to China Daily )

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