German artist HA Schult has spent the last 18 years traveling around the world with his own army of ‘trash people.’ Like a modern version of China’s terra-cotta warriors, the exhibit recently landed in Israel.
First built out of all manner of recycled junk in 1996, Trash People has since awed audiences in Xanten, Paris, Moscow, Beijing, Cairo, Zermatt, Kilkenny, Gorleben, Brussels, Cologne, Graz, Rome, Barcelona, Washington D.C., Siracuse, Fabriano, Telgte, and the Arctic.
Now the army of trash warriors, which is reduced from its original 1,000 to 500 and comprises 20 tons of iron, glass, computer parts and industrial waste, has touched down in Tel Aviv.
They didn’t go to Rothschild Blvd. They didn’t go to Jaffa. The trash warriors went to Hiriya, the site of what used to be the largest landfill in the country. And what a site it was.
Teeming with so much methane gas that it provides power for a nearby factory, the landfill has since been rehabilitated into a public park, and one that is incredibly active at educating the public about the downsides of poor waste management.
But they are also the vanguard for an active trash culture – people who turn waste into art and even functional objects.
There’s nothing functional about the German artist’s trash army on display at what is now called the Ariel Sharon Park. But it does serve as a remarkable wake up call.
Modern society has become so wasteful that we have run out of ways to dispose of the excess trash. The oceans are so full of trash, rescue teams mistook it for the Malaysian Flight 370 that went missing, and there’s even junk floating in space.
To some extent, each one of us is a trash warrior. According to a 2012 Ha’aretz article, after Americans, Israelis generate more waste per capita than anywhere else in the world. That same year, 3,000 tons of waste collected from Tel Aviv and surrounding towns was delivered to Hiriya every day.
Recycling is becoming more common and an increasing number of people are aware of how much junk they make. But not enough.
Hopefully this traveling exhibit will become the conversation at Israeli dinner tables, and that the vision of 500 life-sized trash people will forever remind them to reduce their consumption.