Trash Art Project

The amazing two-year journey from edge to edge is coming to its end. I travelled thousands of kilometres by plane, train, bus, minivan and car and every kilometre was worth it: from the Australian sunny beaches to the ice-cold edge in Murmansk, Russia.

My Trash Art Project started in South Australia. I collected trash items from the environment and stitched them together for an art piece called Maralinga. The piece was based on the stories of atomic weapons that were tested by the British in the Maralinga Aboriginal Reserve in 1950-60’s. Maralinga was exhibited here, in Finland, in Arktikum, Rovaniemi, during our project exhibition called Every margin tells a story in December 2016.

During the workshops in Rovaniemi and Murmansk, I collected trash from their rather cold winter environments. The staff of MASU, Murmansk Arctic State University, also helped me with this task. I got some beautiful old Christmas and greeting cards from them. After the workshops, I came back to my home town Kuopio in Finland, and started to make art pieces from my findings.

The art piece Hattara is made from the Rovaniemi trash. It is inspired by the Sámi people who show their identity and status through their clothes and jewellery. Hattara is made for those who prefers to disguise or hide their identity instead. The word hattara comes from one of the Sámi languages and means: creepy laughing female goblin in the woods.

From the items I collected in Murmansk I made an art piece called Хорошо-Haraso-Hyvä-Good. It is based on the familiar Russian words, haraso, holodna and the others I heard there. My late mother used those words when I was a child. The shape of the art piece is based on the colourful and appealing neon lights in Murmansk. All the three art pieces are now in the Naisia maailman laidalla exhibition in Helinä Rautavaara Museum in Espoo, Finland.

My aim in my work is to encompass the commentary on global consumerism. My art is site-specific reflections on concrete events and encounters and its materiality brings my personal experiences to the viewer. I have been always using recycled materials in my art. The use of trash is a new and natural extension for my art practice. During this two-year project, I learnt to trust my own feelings to do my art even more. I remember it felt a little bit insecure when I decided what my project is going to be: using the trash from environment to make art pieces. Luckily, the response of other women in the workshops and the exhibition audience has been encouraging – they have appreciated what I was doing.

During this project, I also created a new workshop model: Trash Art Project Workshop. These workshops are also site-specific and the material, trash, is collected from the space around. The audience can take part in the workshop to create an art piece from the collected trash. The first Trash Art Project Workshop took place in Satoa goes wild street food festival in Kuopio in June 2017. The material, plastic cups, paper plates etc., was collected from the festival area. I was also working in South Africa with San youth in July. There we collected trash and made San symbols out of the trash for an installation which will be exhibited next year in Arktikum in Rovaniemi. The latest workshops happened in Helinä Rautavaara Museum. Big amount of material was collected with the help of the museum staff, and the participants were mostly school children.

Two years ago, when this Women living on the edges of the world project started, my mother passed away. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work with these nearly 100 wonderful women from the edges of the world and share our lives and stories. These women also gave me the comfort I needed in my sad situation. Something beautiful and unexpected happens to you, as an artist and a person, when you meet and work together with other makers.

By Tarja Wallius

Photo credits: Petra Tiihonen / Alias Creative Studios

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