“Art Without Waste” inspires us to re-think our relationship to consumerism
Book by Patty K. Wongpakdee
Reviewed by Maren Maiers
In “Art Without Waste,” author Patty K. Wongpakdee presents an extraordinarily comprehensive survey of everyday objects created from discarded materials. The author reflects a new consciousness that has gained momentum throughout the world, depicting a cultural and economic shift away from unlimited mass consumption toward a more careful conservation of the planet’s resources.
Divided into four categories – personal items & accessories, home & garden, interior & outdoor spaces, and art & design – Wongpakdee curates over 500 pieces of art ranging from reclaimed fishing boats as sheds in the UK to pianolo pattern and socks re-fashioned as lamps, used books turned into a reception counter, and bicycle tubes and old cassette tapes turned into belts and hats. In each example, established and emerging artists and designers harness their creative passion into playful manipulations of recycled and upcycled materials to change perceptions of material consumption.
In her book, Wongpakdee aims to show how artists and designers around the world are on the leading edge of change, nudging us all in a cultural shift to sustainability. She states, “Perceptive artists and designers appreciate that global, cultural values are always in flux. They must be attuned to this ever-shifting landscape in order to effectively convey their ideas… In doing so, they are ushering in a new era of entrepreneurial innovation, spurring future generations to embrace sustainability in all aspects of life.”
While the book successfully portrays artists and designers as cultural leaders, it does not attempt to discern a cutting edge aesthetic for the arts and design disciplines. Some examples, such as recycled lenses from spectacles stringed together to form a dress, or metal shopping carts turned into chairs, or a candelabra out of reclaimed guns may push the idea of reuse to an extreme, but they are not necessarily tasteful or even useful. This is perhaps intentional. Wongpakdee’s approach is more of general survey of a movement rather than a tightly curated aesthetic edit.
Ultimately, Wongpakdee wants to provoke us as readers to question our material choices and re-balance our notions of desirability and necessity. In the spirit of Orson Welles, who once said, “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations,” she inspires us to embrace our creative energy and find meaningful ways to incorporate re-use and recycling into our everyday life. As we feel the effects of dwindling natural resources and the pinch in our wallet from increasing global financial pressures, “Art Without Waste” will leave you wanting to roll up your sleeves and re-imagine your own relationship to consumerism.