One man’s trash is another man’s artistic masterpiece

The materials used in the compositions are largely inorganic plastics and metals.

BEIRUT: Trash, that ubiquitous blight and putrid bother, has taken on a new meaning thanks to the Goguikian Foundation’s Extraordinary Art Exhibition, which opened Thursday evening.

Mounted on white pedestals illuminated by museum lighting, it’s not immediately clear that the mixed-media works on display at the Beirut Souks have successfully blurred the line between litter and fine art.

Some of Lebanon’s most renowned creative minds created the pieces for the exhibition using jettisoned baubles, cans and bags otherwise destined for Lebanon’s already over-capacity landfills.

The project, which aims to draw attention to Lebanon’s trash problem, is an extension of a recycling campaign launched in Burj Hammoud by students who have received scholarships through the Goguikian Foundation. 

Lebanon is in desperate need of a national dialogue about trash, recycling and resource use, said Soheila Hayek, executive director of the foundation. 

“We are now in trouble with our landfills, they are filling up, there’s no more room,” she told The Daily Star. “It’s a topic that affects all of us, and yet somehow we assume its the politicians’ job to take care of us.”

Instead of organizing a conference or lecture series, the foundation decided that an interactive, creative approach to environmental action would spark more meaningful responses from the public.

The exhibition, she said, offered artists the chance to lend their voices to the conversation. “We invited 40 artists, filmmakers, designers, artist, sculptors [to participate],” she said. “They all agreed that they would make something out of what others might consider waste.”

The resulting works of art reflect both the incredible diversity of creative talent in Lebanon and, perhaps more importantly, the beauty that can come from things chucked in the bin.

A chair with a seat made from multicolored plastic bags, a massive hanging sculpture comprised entirely of thrown-away purses, male and female forms created from foil and old toys are some highlights from the exhibition. The pieces are for sale, and 25 percent of the revenues will go to the Goguikian Foundation.

The materials used in the compositions are largely inorganic plastics and metals that don’t break down easily and take up space in Lebanon’s increasingly overburdened landfills. Such items can be repurposed or recycled, as the Goguikian Foundation’s scholars know well. 

Over the past year, students who have received scholarships through the foundation have collected more than 3 tons of paper, 800 kilograms of plastic and 120 kilograms of aluminum in Burj Hammoud.

The art exhibition in the heart of Beirut will, Hayek hopes, revitalize the conversation about recycling in the nation’s capital.

At the very least, she hopes it will make the public rethink what’s in rubbish bins.

“We hope that people will come in and take another look at garbage.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 20, 2014, on page 2.




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