Melbourne-based artist and designer Andrew Hayim de Vries is so passionate about the health of the environment and the practice of upcycling and recycling in both his personal and professional lives that it forms the basis for everything he does. The the idea – and his ideal – is to not just educate others on the importance of these things but to actually empower change. He wants to ‘explore the value of what we consider value to be’ and to impress upon ‘the need to up-cycle, recycle and reuse’.
He is, in fact, so deeply passionate about this cause that I’ve had to ‘bleep’ out a couple of words in the interests of not offending anyone!
Andrew’s professional background is diverse – ranging from painting to performance art to building houses as art works as well as to live in. He lives and breathes his cause and his latest project follows along similar lines. ‘Lighting Conditions Do Apply’ is a series of upcycled designer lights Andrew has made using found and collected objects in an original way. It’s all about the importance of recycling as a practical need and the bringing back to life items that are now thought to be value-less.
The current collection reflects a string of narratives, including ‘Digestive Vehicles’ (food), ’Anatomical Waste’ (body waste), ‘Loaded Plastic Pistols’ and ‘How the West Was Lost in 6 Tonka Trucks’, which highlight aspects of society’s waste and neglect.
The project is a continuation of an exhibition he did in 2004 entitled ‘Home Wheres’, which came about from the large collection of interesting objects gathered from his first home, 100 Hubble.
Come and meet Andrew and learn more about what makes him and his work tick …
Tell us about yourself. What’s your background and how have you ended up where you are today?
I have a BA in Fine Arts and have been a practising artist in painting, performance art and object construction for more than 30 years. I’ve travelled extensively overseas and throughout Australia and am very interested in cultural living systems.
100 Hubble is a property I renovated four times over a period of 20 years [from 1985 to 2005], using completely recycled building materials, including an old wooden railway carriage as a bedroom, a wheelhouse of fishing boat as a kitchen, telephone box as a shower, and so on and so on.
Garage Mahal Home [2005 – 2013] is a personally designed and built home. It was an experiment in a cost-effective, meccano-style building system, ecologically designed to the extreme that features one of the largest green wall systems designed to heat and cool the property.
When and why did you begin exploring with reclaimed objects and lighting?
This interest began 35 years ago, while residing in my home ‘100 Hubble’ in Fremantle, which was adorned with many thousands of donated ‘junk’ objects over the front of the house as a form of public participation. The objects were given by the public and put to new life through the creation of the facade of the building.
Towards the end of my 20 years in this home, I began to create isolated objects into artworks – the ‘Hubble in a Bubble’ exhibition, 2004 – 2005.
Where do you source your materials from?
Primarily from local tip shops, hard garbage and a handful of flea markets around the world. For example, the checkered flat conical shapes used on some of the lighting objects are unused speed humps off the road, which would normally go to landfill or re-mulched.
Tell us about your current work ‘Lighting Conditions Do Apply’
I want to bring people’s attention to society’s hell-bent obsession with consumption by creating new items of value from discarded items, which are then seen in a new light.
It began through 100 Hubble as a pre-occupation with lights and lighting objects, housing 127 unique working lights. The project’s aim is to produce 100 works by the end of 2014, which celebrate history and bring the past into a body of work. Some of the works will be also dealing with the composting decay of materials, like coffee grounds, within the lighting structures.
It is a continual narrative based on humour, satire and social and ecological values. I’m a great believer that waste = food.
Who or what are some of your influences? What other artists, designers, peers and creatives do you admire?
My source of inspiration is looking at history and cultures. These are my teachers! For example, throughout history we have, at times, needed to be extremely resourceful. People had to improvise because of necessity and the by-product of these predicaments created a greater sense of unity, community and a shared common sense of the basic fundamentals.
By looking at indigenous cultural systems you see people who have survived through make-shift, reused and upcycled objects – and this excites me!
Of course there are many designers, artist friends, and quirky naive outsider artists, who have all contributed to my interests as well.
You have also designed a special composting system and have a business dedicated to composting, Compost Instead. Tell us a little about this and the importance of the environment and sustainability in your daily life and work?
Composting is a waste bi-product. We are so *#!$!*dumb that we can’t get our *%#! together to make it productive. We’re exploring it, attempting it but we are way behind in our technology, our maturity and knowledge of the necessity for effective composting systems to deal with the excessive toxic waste which is filling up the air, land and sea.
I’ve been composting for 30 years and designed a unique system, which incorporates a truly effective composting system that directly feeds into a veggie garden. It is an odour-free modular system which can be implemented and designed based on space and need. The other is a vertically designed system, which can be used in small spaces.
By the way, if I’ve sounded a little animated in my word use, it is because it is the most neglected area in our food waste management cycle in our present society.
My guilty pleasure is …
Let’s talk sometime.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
I am amazed when I look back in history how society has not learned from its mistakes. When we look at civilisation over four millennium, who’d have thought that today we’re still in a form of social organised chaos, where we’ve lost touch and become, not people, but ‘disposal objects’?
Thanks Andrew for your time and enthusiasm!
You can see more of his unique and quirky lights here. They are available for purchase or consignment.