Forget pricey imported oil paints and exorbitant blocks of marble. Art students at a Brazilian university have taken advantage of one material they have in endless and free supply — trash — to create an exhibition that aims to draw attention to the fetid state of Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay, where Olympic sailing events are to be held next year.
Around 30 students at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University used plastic bottles, tires, old flip flops, plastic helmets, scratched CDs, old tubes and plastic supermarket bags they plucked off a nearby shore to make sculptures of ocean fauna including an octopus and dolphins.
The campus, on Fundao Island in the filthy bay near the international airport, is at the epicenter of Rio’s pollution problem. With poor trash and sewage services throughout the city of 12 million people, Rio’s waterways are choked with raw sewage and floating garbage. A thick ring of trash surrounds much of Fundao Island, where the stench of raw sewage is often overpowering.
“We went out with the students to collect garbage for the project and I was like, ‘Let’s not take more than we need.’ Because there is so much, so much garbage,” said Dalia dos Santos Cerqueira, a professor of fine arts and coordinator of the exhibit. “It was scary to see.”
Fabio Drumond, an artist who worked on the exhibit, said the project showed how the bay has been transformed over the past decades into a watery landfill.
“Dolls, wood, chairs, tires, televisions — everything that doesn’t work anymore gets thrown into the water,” he said. “It’s being destroyed by garbage.”
Rio authorities had pledged to clean up the fetid bay before the 2016 Olympics, when sailing events are slated to be held there. But with the games just over a year away, both the mayor and the governor have repeatedly said that promise won’t be met. Still, Olympic authorities insist the events will be held on the bay despite objections of some sailors, who are worried about falling ill from the water or potentially catastrophic collisions with floating trash.
The art show, called “The Sea’s Not Fit for Fish,” runs through Thursday at the university campus.
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