Contemporary Art and Readymades

Breathing new life into waste and kitsch objects is a contemporary issue for many artists and designers, but what are the benefits of utilizing old objects to create works of art?

International Video artists, George Barber recently provided a special guest lecture at UCLan to talk to staff and students about his work and his use of recycling clips from 70’s/80’s programmes to create his videos. By chopping and repeating short video clips from popular culture TV, Barber creates visually entrancing short videos that are accompanied by techno music, creating a trippy and euphoric experience, leaving the viewer drawn like a moth to a flame. Barber’s use of recycling footage from pop culture TV helped him create new meaning of everyday media but what are the overall benefits of recycling, up-cycling and use of found objects from the contemporary artists and designers?


Recycling of waste materials is a major contemporary challenge for many artists and designers, worldwide, who are looking to create functional use from household and industrial waste. A resident of a shanty dwelling in the Philippines, who is known loacally as “Solar Demi” has recently made the news with his project to bring light into the dark, dreary homes of Sitio Maligaya. By using discarded, empty bottles and filling them with a solution of bleach and water, ‘Solar Demi’ has created light bulbs from recycled materials, that he installs into the roofs of hundreds of shacks throughout his community, giving light to the once bleak homes of his dwelling.


The use of second hand goods, recycling has many benefits to artists and designers. Fine Art Student Jasmine Dixon has recently turned to Prestons local charity shops to help create her up-cycled illustrations. By hunting down kitsch art work and reimagining the works of homely wall art, she is also finding the benefits of using second hand goods on a financial and technical basis. “I think students are encouraged to use second hand for canvas and paint brushes but sometimes you can’t avoid spending a lot of money of paint, so it’s good to have that choice to have charity shops and second hand for all the rest of your materials, it is important to budget and find the best deals.”
Benefits of buying second hand objects also reside in the objects themselves; the history of an object and the sentiment of it’s being can also majorly benefit contextually. Jasmine says’ “objects always have stories and a past that’s why I pick them, you can’t have a book or a child’s toy with it out coming with some sort of baggage from the previous owner”, ”it won’t be as perfect as what it would of been freshly made out of the printers or the shop. The objects have lived their own little life.”


With a little imagination and skill artwork can now be more affordable to produce, without compromising on the quality of materials. By reimagining the way we view waste, old and distasteful materials and objects we can create environmentally friendly, provocative works of art and design, with the use of a little innovative thinking.


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