Bordalo II's work is predicated on one thing - rejection. The world we live in, the one that he works in, is a highly consumerist system that, no matter who is involved in the fight - money always wins. It's through his rejection of our contemporary status-quo and his willingness to fight against it that bring his art into our lives.
Scrambling around, animalistic like the creations that he's working on, the Lisbon born artist is clear that the idea of 'trash', the raw material he uses for his pieces, is an abstract one. What he values, you may not.
You see, as he picks some things up, paints them and transforms them into one mosaic piece of a much larger sculpture, his vision becomes manifest - his philosophy begins to come to life. The 'trash' he uses has already had one, or two, or more previous lives. These prior lives add to their story. His approach to reincarnate them once again is both political and artistic. It stands for something and stands against something else.
Despite being seemingly opposing sentiments - the for and against of his work are inextricably linked. They come hand-in-hand. By choosing to create art that heralds the ephemeral beauty of the natural world, he is in turn creating work that stands against those forces destroying nature. These factors - climate change, dumping waste, greed and destruction are all embodied by the subjects of his work alongside the process of their creation.
The phrase that Bordalo employs for his materials is 'end-of-life', which is closer to the truth than seeing it as trash. The materials are certainly leaving behind the life they knew, the one that they were designed for, but with Bordalo's vision - their life is really just beginning. The odd pieces that he finds are usually reassembled to take the form of animals, particularly ones that he wants to draw attention to.
Bordalo utilises the space taken up by his sculptures on the walls of the city to make us pay attention to his depictions of specific animals. For him, "Animals are a direct way to make a portrait of nature. They have expressions, movements, feelings, and act in a way that can sensitise us." That he sees us as having a need to become more sensitised, or in-touch with our environment is important. Trash itself, predominantly plastics, are so far removed from nature in their colours and shapes that we often completely forget what the real-world looks like. Forests, springs and lakes become something we see on film and in photographs.
It's the paradox that holds the power. These pieces of the instruments that leave behind so much destruction and death become the faces of animals that exude life and warmth. His sculptures rarely seem static, instead, they're always engaging with the wider world. Their scale makes them hard to ignore. It gives us perspective - something so little and easily overlooked is actually an incredibly complex and necessary part of our world.
Bordalo's work, in the process of creation and its effects, is transformative. Literally, of course, he's turning trash into art. But it goes a little deeper than that. If you take the time to be consumed by what's in-front of you, they can affect an emotional punch. Why? Because you have contributed to making them.
Either consciously or unconsciously, we are all part of the trend of destructive behaviours that are perpetrated by large corporation against our planet. The rate at which this degradation is happening is unprecedented and the reactions, from hysteria to denial, have been headline grabbers for the last two decades.
This is the challenge set forth by the artist. Bordalo exclaims that, "We can't wait for big companies to give us amazing products and solutions to turn the world into a better place." Instead, we are all responsible. For everything we take from the world, it makes sense that we try to give it back. This is his way, but what's yours? If we all engaged as proactively, whether artistically or otherwise, with our environment, it's a trend that may never go away, but might slow down enough for the earth to begin processes of restoration.
Beyond the immediacy of the art being a mirror that reveals our more dirty and dangerous habits, the pieces are also filled with more subtle subliminal messages that focusses on our part in the whole thing. Humans and animals aren't so far apart. Although mostly rural in their subject matter - Bordalo's work is still urban. It's waste that comes from cities, waste like car-parts, bins and household appliances that we discard from our lives. When we see the animal, we recognise it. But we also recognise the things that make it. It's a holistic rumination on the relationships that predominate our modern lives.
The animals are also symbolic. Pigs reflect our greed, rats reflect our city-dwelling existence and foxes show our crafty and cunning nature. Their construction is incredibly accurate, with Bordalo often spending a considerable amount of time pouring over images of the animals physical and anatomical make-up.
Since around 2013, Bordalo has been repurposing waste and has used roughly 28 tons of the stuff in his works. That's a lot. It means that he has probably used more waste than he has created - it's an artist living through their work.
His botton line goes beyond the animals and the trash though. It's a burning question: Can we sustain life on earth and how can you help to do so? That answer lies at the feet of everyone that sees his work. It was a question that he once asked himself too. Everything that we see now is his answer to that question.
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