a buzz about recycling

Submitted by sproutscout on Fri, 2011-06-10 10:52

Coffee Cup Swarm (Photo care of Such Initiative)Coffee Cup Swarm (Photo care of Such Initiative)

If you happen to look up in the courtyard at the RMB building in the Sandton CBD this week you'll see a swarm of bees a-buzzing around your head, swirling up to the highest floors. These bees won’t sting or hover around your sweet drinks, but gently sway above your head in the breeze.

In their first ever corporate commission, Such Initiative public artists Hannelile Coetzee and Usha Seejarim are causing a stir and getting conversations to buzz. The bee swarm (made out of 400 used coffee cups from the building's canteen) is an artwork to raise awareness about recycling, and inspire a little awe in passers by.

The Coffee Cup Swarm Almost FinishedThe Coffee Cup Swarm Almost Finished

About Such

Their vision "to shift perceptions through eco-conscious public art" means many different things for the artists. They hope that in the process of each project a shift occurs. Whether it be a shift in how participants view trash, perceive art, or a shift in the way the artists themselves create. Hannelie hopes to get to the heart of the post apartheid conception of responsibility. By bringing communities together to make art (and therefore be owners of the art) she hopes that they will begin to own their environment, indeed be more responsible for their environment and their actions. In addition the initiative aims to increase the base of the so-called "art literate". Public art infiltrates the public space, changing people’s perceptions of what art should be and who should and can appreciate it.

Bees in FlightBees in Flight

The initiative started in 2009, while the artists were sharing a workspace and realised that they shared a common vision about art and the environment. This, as well as the richness gleaned from their diverse backgrounds, fired them up to start Such Initiative. They found that their diverse backgrounds started many interesting conversations. The diversity also helped them to better tackle various projects, enabled them to have complimentary views and approaches to art. As such throughout their projects they try to draw attention to the richness of diversity by helping people from different backgrounds discover it in themselves and those around them.

Bees Bees Bees

For the RMB commissioned project, coffee cups were given wings and transformed into a swarm. The artists play on the ideas of BEE, corporate culture, corporate workspace, collective thinking and collaboration. It was important that they presented "something quirky in such a serious space" explains Coetzee. World Environment day highlighted sectors such as waste, energy, water and travel that needed to be focussed on. These creatures in flight draw attention to all of necessary aspects.

Crafting BeesCrafting Bees
The artists hope to follow up on this project, perhaps later in the year there will be an option of buying glass coffee mugs and replacing the non-recyclable cups used at present. Most importantly for them, however, they were able to permeate the corporate workspace, and make people think about waste and the environment in this space, even in a small way. For them it is a great success that RMB workers changed their daily routines of using coffee cups to accommodate the project, and implicitly started thinking about their own waste use.

There will be a public viewing of this work on Thursday 9th June from 9am to 10am at 3 Merchant Place, Sandton Johannesburg.

A Growing Swarm (Photo care of Such Initiative)A Growing Swarm (Photo care of Such Initiative)

Such Great Projects
The initiative works within communities, bringing them together around a certain project. Previous projects include a Tommorrows Joy, a bottle top mosaic commissioned by arts alive in 2010. The project worked with seven community centres from disadvantaged backgrounds in and around Johannesburg over the world cup period. Each community member took home a tiny square, onto which they sewed bottle tops, and which they returned. In such a way each participant owned the awe-inspiring final product, and began to view their own creative ability differently. (It truly was an awe-inspiring final product click the link to view the photographs).

Sociological feedback reports indicated that through participation in the project, people’s perceptions about waste had been changed. People were more likely to recycle or make use of bottle tops, following their engagement with the project. The project enriched the communities’ lives in other ways; teaching new skills, creating a platform for networking, and providing holiday activities (for the school-going children). The mosaic will be on display at the Village Green at National Artsfest in Grahamstown at the end of the month.

Other interesting projects include the Sand Mandala Project created for the 2010 Infecting the City Public Art Festival, and the Isimangaliso project, a giant driftwood hippo, made in collaboration with a community of artists in St Lucia.

The initiative has a pool of about 50 crafters that they can call on to help with projects. Many of these come from Boitumelo, a craft NGO based in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. Working in communities inspires participants to get crafty. At least one participant who worked on the bottle top mosaic has begun making and selling crafts from bottle tops following her experience in the project.

Crafting InspirationCrafting Inspiration

The way the artists use diversity (and the conversations diversity sparks) as a tool to break down boundaries, to shift perceptions, demonstrates how these projects are about so much more than just environmentalism, or just art. They are about the way we see ourselves, and our communities and the world. The problems that we deal with on a day to day basis are merely symptoms of this world vision, and it is only through challenging our vision that we can begin to solve problems. If something as simple as public art can permeate (even for a few moments) the corporate head-space, if it can make people stop, think, ask, change their routines, it is indeed a powerful tool to reach to the heart of the problem.

Such Initiative has two projects coming up in Cosmo City and Hillbrow in Johanneburg, working with the Makhulong Learning centres of Johannesburg Housing Company’s development fund. They welcome any volunteers that are in the vicinity. Contact the artists to find out more.

Looking Down on the Final Product - and the Team That Created It (Photo care of Such Initiative)Looking Down on the Final Product - and the Team That Created It (Photo care of Such Initiative)

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