Established in 2011, The PET Lamp Project is a brilliant, creative response to the global problem of plastic waste, combining reclaimed plastic bottles with textile traditions from around the world.
Led by founder Alvaro Catalán de Ocón, the team travelled to Ramingining in Arnhem Land to work with a group of Yolngu artists over six weeks in 2016. Together with these creatives from Bula’Bula Arts Centre they devised a way to join weavings, repurposing traditional Yolngu mats as PET Lamp chandeliers, and the finished masterpieces are now on exhibit at NGV, as part of the NGV Triennial.
For Alvaro, the experience of taking this project to indigenous Australia (PET Lamp’s six location and fifth continent) was a once in a lifetime adventure, an exercise in skill sets never taught in his design education, and a story worth telling – from collecting the Pandanus fibres and roots, the digging of the natural pigments for dying, to the weaving.
‘As usual, we started our workshop in Australia without a clear idea of how the traditional Aboriginal weaving techniques were going to materialise and give shape to the new PET Lamp piece. We were carrying plenty of references related to the Aboriginal art, but little did we know about the real experience of living together with the amazing groups of Indigenous artist weavers,’ Alvaro explained. ‘We were aiming for the final piece to reflect the visual language of the characteristic paintings from both Arnhem Land and the Deserts, so it could build a strong connection with the land where all the natural fibres were coming from. Unexpectedly, a whole system of Aboriginal kinships unfolded before our eyes and contributed to enriching and giving meaning to the project.’
Weavers initially began working on their own individual lampshades, creating round forms based on their traditional mats. The idea to join them came from one weaver, Mary Gulpilil (the twin sister of actor David Gulpilil) who is known for having a ‘dual vision of the world’, with all her creations comprising two, ‘twin’ elements.
‘The result is basically an interpretation of the complex links between the Indigenous artist weavers taking part into the workshop, ’ detailed Álvaro. ‘All the relationships (going beyond traditional blood ties) were depicted by using great interwoven concentric circles, with infinite ellipses which recall the level curves of a topographic map, their water holes and hills and their billabongs and coastlines.’
‘The finished work is fantastic and we are incredibly proud to be representing this work in the NGV Triennial,’ adds Ewan McEoin, NGV’s Hugh Williamson Senior Curator of Contemporary Design and Architecture, who began working with Álvaro in 2015. ‘It tackles the global problem of plastic waste and fuses these traditional textile weavings with reclaimed plastic bottles.’
You can witness ‘Yindi Natjbarr’ and other woven masterpieces from this project, commissioned by NGV, as part of the NGV Triennial, on now until April 15th 2018. Also look out for ‘Victoria Amazonica’ a collaboration between Estudio Campana, Alice Springs-based designer Elliat Rich, the Centre for Appropriate Technologies (CAT) and Yarrenyty Arltere artists located in the Larapinta Valley Town Camp in Alice Springs.