One thing I've noticed in Bali is that some shops or fashion labels reuse waste materials by upcycling them into new items that can be reused. If you've been to Bali before you may have noticed the paper shopping bags folded from old newspapers. Or patchwork shopping bags made from scrap materials. I always wondered why this repurposing is more common in Bali, than my hometown of Melbourne, for example. It is because we have recycling systems in place in Australia? Or is craft and hand made items more ingrained into everyday life here?
One Balinese artist incorporates rubbish and other found items into his work, but his use of waste materials has a more deliberate political use. I was fortunate to speak to Made Bayak during the week of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival about his work.
Some of Made's works from his 'Plasticology: Trashed Island' series were exhibited around town as part of the Festival. Made uses rubbish, mostly plastic rubbish, and juxtaposes it with images of traditional Bali.
Using rubbish as part of the art work is a way for Made to draw attention to the problem of waste in Bali. Made runs art workshops for school kids from his studio, where kids use rubbish and experiment with upcycling it to raise awareness about waste.
As there is no adequate government recycling or rubbish removal service in Bali, it is common to burn piles of rubbish which affects air quality. Also littering is common - before plastic was prevalent, banana leaves were used as food wrappers. After eating, the wrapper leaves were discarded anywhere. Now that most food and beverages are served in plastic, littering continues to follow these old customs.
Putting plastic trash together with traditional images of Bali creates strong political undertones to Made's work. Made went further with this recently with a performance where he stood in traditional dress with his hands in prayer, while a bulldozer piled soil over him. The performance was to raise awareness of a $2.5 billion planned development in Benoa Bay, a protected area where development is now approved.
The Benoa Bay area, where currently traditional fishing methods are used to fish shrimp, crabs and seaweed amongst the mangroves, is now approved for development of yacht marinas, race tracks, casinos, nightclubs, a large entertainment complex and theme park, resort hotels, a golf course, a luxury shopping complex, restaurants, bars, cafes, apartment buildings, and a large numbers of condominiums and villas for sale or lease. Man made islands will be built to accommodate some or all of these.
I thought these images of Made being snowed under my the soil of a bulldozer was really strong. I often think about the rampant development in Bali, and I know I'm not the only one, which is why I wanted to share Made's work here.