Updated: Jan 4
My phobic aversion to shopping malls was recently put to the test. Recently when an opportunity to put up my first public art installation at a mall in downtown Kuala Lumpur ( with an honorarium attached) I swallowed my distaste and got to work. I was given the task to liven up a depressingly dreary corridor. About 40 feet long and 12 feet wide passage with hideous florescent lights that ran from the elevator to the restrooms on the 2nd floor. They wanted "something on the ceiling made of recycled material, *nice to look at* and completed before an art fair opened in a few weeks ". It had to be lightweight because the ceiling was made of foam core but no other specifics. Sure, I can do that. Except at this time Malaysia was under full lockdown and all the recycling centers were closed. I had no idea where I'd get the truckloads of materials I needed to complete the project. My first idea to use bubble wrap (which everyone had plenty of from all the pandemic online shopping) was quickly shot down. "Not nice to look at" I was told. Thankfully my plan B for a" plastic bottle synthesis" I was calling it, was deemed *nice to look at*. Now it was just a matter of finding the hundreds of bottle I'd need to complete the project.
I quickly used up my personal stash of bottles and I was striking out finding anywhere that had enough plastics for the entire project. A recycling group on Facebook was recommended, I joined and that lead to joining a few similar groups. Within a few days I found around a dozen people that had been hoarding bottles for months during lockdown and were more than happy to have someone take them I collected hundreds of #2 type plastic (milk, detergent, shampoo) in fairly little time. The garage below my studio provided dozens of motor oil containers also.
Thankfully most of the containers were cleaned, except the motor oil jugs, they were a real pain in the ass to clean. If anyone has any tips on getting oil off plastic I'm all ears. Most of the project is held together with plastic rivets although there's lots of grommets and zip ties too. You can scroll through some shots of section coming together in my studio above.
My state of the art bottle dissection machine in action. I got into a good rhythm every now and then but not quite this fast.
I installed each section after it was finished every week, it took about six weeks until the entire corridor was done. It was a lot of work but I was pretty pleased in the end and the building management was too. You can scroll through shots of the finished product above.
What I could do around the lights wasn't really decided until after I started to install. They're LED and produce no heat. Once I convinced the management there was no fire hazards they agreed to let me hid their hideous glow. It ended up being their favorite part.
I was asked to write a bit about the piece for the wall label, I won't bore you with the whole thing but there's a small snippet below to help answer your "But what does it mean?" questions:
"I have a complicated relationship with plastics; while I share the same concerns about its environmental impact as many others do, as an artist I see it as an amazingly versatile material with limitless art making potential. I see this work as a representation of how our lives are intertwine and inseparable from plastics, At a very basic level, the contents from the plastic used in this piece sustain the city and it's in habitants."
It'll be up through January at Fahrenheit 88 mall on the first floor, in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. Stop by and have a look in you're in the area and please let me know what you think, it'll be available for the next venue in early 2022. Happy New Year! And a big thanks to Anup Ravindranathan for the photography .
Chadwick Moore A Synthesis of Emptied Bottles, 2021 Plastic containers, bubble wrap, wire zip ties and rivets, 1430 x 425 x 65 cm