Crafts, art, and design have never ceased to be related as sister disciplines, and the blurring of their borders is a very current debate. Every year professionals who refuse to split the triad join together and the novelty is that these discussions are beginning to move inward the academic cloisters.
Of these three universes of forms, the most sustainable is the handicrafts. Almost no machinery is involved in their production, and they are created with the raw materials available in each region. Not, for this reason, art and design are less sustainable.
We explore some emblematic cases where sustainability establishes as the central axis of aesthetic practices.
In 2013, having collaborated with the artist Edgardo Nelson Rodríguez, the designers of Perfectos Dragones generated an extraordinary line of accessories and wallets from the recycling of different elements. Today, they continue to innovate in this direction and work with artists and cultural institutions. Other ventures such as Modesta and AWKA have also achieved successful reuses, of tires and nylon bags, by making bags, backpacks, and designer toiletry bags, respectively.
A most pertinent project to mention and conceived from an expressly artistic point of view is QR: between the ancestral and the future of the artist and curator Patricia Hakim. Its mission: to recover and expand the scope of crafts using new technologies as a platform. An example of their actions during the pandemic was the creation of face masks using ancient techniques such as randa, yica and cheguar knit, sheep wool, or stained leather. The initiative involved the preparation of a QR code, done in the same technique, with which the owner of the mask could access an educational video that teaches each procedure. In this way, you can testify the traceability of each creation where the raw material is always biodegradable. From a philosophical perspective, the QR project aligns with the new interest in the knowledge of the Original Peoples of America. Also evident in the works of contemporary artists Guadalupe Miles, Mónica Alvarado, Martín Bonadeo, Mónica Millán, Carlota Beltrame, Marcos Zimmermann, and Lucio Boschi, among others.
If we delve into the field of local contemporary art, we can see how sustainability issues have become constant. Among the artists, there is a growing interest in making more sustainable artistic practices visible and generating a new interdisciplinary awareness of less polluting ways of life.
Among the expressly artistic productions that we can highlight is the work of the aforementioned, Edgardo Nelson Rodríguez, who, with his Everything works proyect, elaborates a sustainable two and three-dimensional aesthetic from discarded elements. Edgardo’s works represent, among other things, exotic turtles and goldfish, trees, and mystical cities almost in the manner of a goldsmith. In textile art, Alexandra Kehayoglou stands out with her monumental landscapes of rug yarn made from her family’s wool factory leftovers. Her most outstanding performance was the impressive work Santa Cruz River without dams at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, 2018. In Tandil, the artist Paz Pereyra has been making two-dimensional installations and works with found fabrics and elements, capturing a dream world in a new and alternative materiality. Pereyra works with “what she finds in the ground,” Lately, she has been given to elaborate vertical towers with organic forms, as derived from flora.
Another artist who has been indirectly tackling the subject, but with enormous formal merit, is the Pampean Ezequiel Montero Swinnen, whose photographic work between 2015 and 2018 referred to the issue of the landscape and the aesthetic and sensitive limits of his tolerance of the presence of strange objects. Swinnen circumvents the balance from a conceptual point, and the result is very effective. From the Falkland Islands and since 2012, the artist James Peck has also been recycling part of his own daily life, combining emotional-affective feelings.
The Buenos Aires artist Cynthia Kampelmacher, for her part, also stands out for working on the image of the jungle as a conceptual whole through different procedures. Her works force us to stop at the networks of relationships that the jungle condenses and that invariably mirror other realities; other systems.
In a line closer to the sublime are the photographs of Jasmine Rossi and the videos of Charly Nijensohn. Photography and video works deal exclusively with the landscape, and man’s interaction with it is considered sustainable, either because it contains testimonial or denouncing edges.
As we can see, the methods and resources to address sustainability issues are endless. Even so, there are still unexplored anchors such as those that transcend the objective paradigm.
The involvement of industrial engineers in the world of art and design has the advantage of transforming large amounts of waste into more malleable and creativity-friendly materials. And this fact is beginning to emerge as a new course of action, having demonstrated feasibility, relevance, and value in Sergio Fasani’s workshops at Villa Martelli. A few years ago, the industrial designer put together a startup called Project Mutan to produce spherical lamps from plastic bottle caps. (The same ones that are gathered for the Garrahan Hospital.) In turn, Mutan developed the prototype of the machines that crush the material to achieve PETS. In recent months they added to the catalog of products the making of masks for COVID and limited editions of eyeglass frames.
This kind of work is beginning to find its place in the intersection with the sphere of art through projects such as Diego Bianchi’s Azcuy Award 2019. The promotion of triple impact initiatives that link the community, the aesthetic, the economic, and the pragmatic supposes investments, alignments of interests, and energies collaborations that are still infrequent. But the fact remains; Its growth enables another horizon of interdisciplinary possibilities, an advantage that other countries have been leading into the design of public spaces for years, waiting to make the problem visible for a definitive change in consciousness.
Surely there is much more to come.