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The eco artists turning trash into treasure

Story highlights

  • Artists are increasingly reflecting the issues surrounding climate change in their work
  • A group of artists from around the world say why and how art can impact climate debate
  • Medium's universal language and sheer power of images key to creating change, they say

"The Waving Wall" is a street art installation that highlights the issue of embedded water -- the hidden quantities of water used to produce the products we buy.

Created by designers and self-styled water crisis campaigners "Bloo Nation," the vast undulating wave is made up of 1,200 19-liter water bottles. This, they say, is the amount of water needed to produce just two pairs of jeans.

The installation is one of many in recent years that examine the modern problems affecting our environment. But what good can they do? Does art have a meaningful role to play in the discussions surrounding climate change?

Six artists from around the world tell us why they think art can make a difference.

Mandy Barker

Mandy Barker's thoughtful still-life photos, dubbed "SOUP" depict  waste debris suspended in water, inspired by the Pacific ocean "Garbage Patch"

"Art is a form of communication that has the ability to promote the challenges concerning climate change. Providing an aesthetic message can often convey awareness or understanding against sometimes over-complicated statistics or articles. Visual art also transcends the barrier of language, making both the work and message able to be viewed by a global audience.

If art has the power to encourage the public to act, to move them emotionally, or at the very least take notice, then this surely must mean art is a vital element in creating impact regarding climate change."

LIKE Architects

"Art is getting closer to the public and its role is increasingly influential. In a time of financial crisis and major environmental concerns, it makes sense that public art reflects these issues by bringing their discussion into the public domain. We believe that art has the power to change people and raise their interest in a greater cause.

We have always been faithful to the concept of re-utilization and recycling (both of materials and urban spaces). We want to contribute to the reinvention of the city and to the possible ways of inhabiting it. We believe that in the future cities will be more fun but also more environmentally aware and, once again, art will play a fundamental role."

Bruce Munro

'Field of Light' encourages onlookers to cherish the landscape says British lighting designer Bruce Munro

"I am drawn more and more to the idea of creating an experience that is gentle on the landscape. This is not environmental flag waving. For me, art that is specifically made to last often has a gravestone spirit about it. It leaves me cold and I love the idea that yesterday's rubbish is momentarily morphed into today's art. It captures the idea that reality is simply a beautiful improvised dance.

Creating these pieces allows me to (hopefully) communicate some of my thoughts and feelings about the importance of cherishing the environment. At its best, an installation is a four-dimensional soap box that can change the world."

Read more from Road to Rio: Ancient 'air-conditioning' cools building sustainably

Michael Pinsky

"If one looks at an average street it can be occupied by cars worth millions of pounds, but try and invest a fraction of this improving the public realm with culture and there are often huge objections.

Art has the ability to bring people together, outside a purely financially driven model to share ideas, spending time -- not money -- and returning home richer in mind without having to worry about finding a place for another newly purchased product."

Rodrigo Alonso

"N+ew Seats" by designer Rodrigo Alonso are made from recycled electronic waste dipped in epoxy resin

"Today we waste a big quantity of electronic material: Computers, plastic cases, electronic cards, hard disks, speakers, kilometers of cables, etc. Here in Latin America, the chance of recycling this 'e-waste' is nearly impossible or a very difficult task: Sooner or later, all these end up in trash.

Its consistent contamination makes it extremely important we think of using this garbage as a new material or raw material, to generate new objects that can be reinserted between us in a useful and aesthetic way."

Stacy Levy

"Nature does not end in the city -- it is all around us in the gritty wind, the flow of urban rivers, even in puddles. Art can make us aware of nature's presence, but it can also show nature's processes. I make art to show how nature works: The schedule of the tides, the currents of the rivers, the heating up of the atmosphere.

And art can also do some work around the planet. The next big step for environmental art is to be part of the toolkit for solving simple environmental issues. I have made several works that allow rainwater to soak into the ground slowly as it should, not rush off to erode the embankments of streams. My works take what the site engineers consider a problem and make it into an asset."