Luke Rudman’s Trash Monsters // An artistic collaboration with Greenpeace Africa

Plastic pollution monsters.

They’re near,

Very near,

In fact…

They’re already here.

– Luke Rudman

Forests ablaze turned ashen decay. Gills smothered; scales tarred by a congealing oil spill. A gasping breath leaves lungs half-filled. On the brink of destruction – once considered scare-tactic-rhetoric, now a reality. In response to the environmental crisis, Port-Elizabeth-based artist, Luke Rudman, has partnered with Greenpeace Africa in his latest project.

Inspired by The Tributaries project, which included hikes and seminar presentations about pollution and its devastating consequences for water and ocean-life, Rudman conceptualized a performance art piece around waste collected from the coastline as a means to represent a different aspect of the problem. What followed after the creation of twelve different pieces, various fittings and body paint – was an occupation of the Nelson Mandela University campus. The protest art piece aimed to transform the diverse group of models into a “personified artwork” in a way that students could relate to the cause.

Photography by Sharon Rudman

The presence of the ‘trash monsters’ was also used as a device to educate and raise awareness about the plastic-plague. Rudman is also a firm believer in the power of social media as a space for activism – in his performance merging the intersection of social commentary in the digital and academic space and in his work, using “beauty and novelty to entice people to engage uncomfortable topics”. The well-documented performance graced the page of Greenpeace Africa during an Instagram take-over by the artist. It will also travel to different parts of the country in exhibition form, starting with a show in November at the NMU Bird Street Campus Gallery. Rudman will also meet the Greenpeace ship in the docks of Cape Town for their Pole-to-Pole project and expedition.

As with any crisis, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and pessimistic. Rudman notes the issue around perceived singularity of responsibility burdened on the individual, saying that it creates an, “individual response to a global problem”. However, he encourages us all to be aware and ethical consumers – “you vote with your money” and “not to be fixated on the negative, focus on what you are able to do”. What began in his practice as a form of escapism, now feels like a tangible space for change.

Photography by Sharon Rudman

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