Trash Goes Treasure
Have you ever wondered where all those shampoo flacons, detergent bottles and plastic bags go to after they’ve done their work? We’ll, best case scenario is that they land on the table of the Cellux Group, a circle of enthusiastic artists, designers, psychologists and sociologists who help people turn trash into new treasures, while doing some unintrusive awareness-raising. We’ve chatted to Zita Kismarty-Lechner for a sneak peak into their work.
What’s the story of the Cellux Group?
The Cellux Group has evolved out of a circle of friends in 2006. We were designers, psychologists and sociologists, all at the beginning of our careers and simply wanted to create a little workplace of our own. We made a list of all the things that we would like to do, and then tried to merge these things into one. We all wanted to work with kids and do something connected to environmental protection. Out of these ingredients, the Cellux Group emerged.
What exactly is your profile?
We hold workshops for businesses and cultural institutes, for kids and grownups alike. We learned a lot on the way, expanded our portfolio and now take on the ‘complex planning’ of campaigns, exhibitions, events and installations aiming at the communication of environmental consciousness – from working up the concept, elaborating the content, designing and executing the visuals.
Can you give us some examples of projects like these?
One of our biggest project of this kind was the creation of the Mirror to the World exhibition, which has been seen by over 27 000 people on 6 locations. We used to go to different schools to hold workshops and classes on environmental consciousness, and we thought it would make more sense to create an exhibition instead, so the people could come to us. Of course not just the content, but the physical exhibition itself had to reflect the idea of environmental consciousness as well, so everything we used was recycled, we built walls out of borrowed beer boxes, for example. Two of our members, Gitta and Boglárka Dani designed and built the interiors of the 2 in 1 mother-to-be shop from old pieces of furniture, and we temporarily furnished the shop-window of the Writers’ Shop as well. But our main profile are the workshops, of course. It was a conscious decision, not to choose artistic self-realization but the sharing of knowledge and skills with others. And it gives us so much! If you do a pair of earrings, you’ll probably never meet the person buying it, but when you create something together with others, you see its place in the world.
What do your workshops look like?
It all depends on where we’re going. Sometimes we join open events such as festivals, here we have a big table with heaps of colorful household waste (plastic bottles, packaging, basically non-organic trash that we all produce during our every day lives) and some tools, puncturing and ring-making instruments, for example. Then we simply show people how to create new items out of the trash: jewelry, little booklets, purses and so on – something they can use afterwards.
But we have regular workshops for kids every week – these workshops open the opportunity to go a bit deeper in the area of eco-design. Sometimes we pick a topic and discuss it while getting creative, other times we select a specific material and build our workshop around that, or we build a larger object together as a team. At the Szélforgó Family House in Szentendre for example we created the ‘dustbin-monster’ with the kids, a complex and organic creature which functions as the local selective trash collector at the same time. The ultimate goal is when participants leave, they are a bit more courageous to take things into their own hands – whether they are 6, 26 or 96. Awareness-raising and creativity go hand in hand here. It’s important to realize that ‘environmental consciousness’ is not just recycling. Above all it’s an attitude – an attitude towards the objects and the people surrounding us.
Where do you get the trash you work with?
The waste is coming after us, so to say; friends and acquaintances provide us with more than enough…
You’ve been doing this for six years now – what’s your experience, how has the attitude of people changed since then? Are people more aware of environmental problems? Are they more open to start changes in their own lives?
When we started there were not too many groups like this, it was a novelty to approach environmental protection through art. That was the time when selective waste management began to enterHungary. It’s safe to say that the majority of Hungarians has gained sufficient knowledge about this topic since then – of course it’s a different question if and how people act in practice; that is a long process. The way I see it that so far, people have been given some practical knowledge and handholds, and now they have to learn how to cooperate with each other. Community gardening, exchange-events are all answers to this question. So there are some good things happening, but of course there’s still a lot of room for improvement. For some foreigners these things may be evident, butHungaryis lagging a bit behind. In western societies, the topic of environmental protection came up in the sixties, whereas inHungary, after the change of regime, we had a boom of consumerism. Now we’re starting to pick up.
The most environmentally friendly solution would be to reduce the amount of waste we produce, though…
Absolutely, and we have learned a lot, on a personal level as well. I think it’s impossible to realize all the ideas at once, so you’re better off going step by step. The last year of my life I devoted to banning chemicals from my household, for example, substituting them with natural ones, trying out which ones fit me best (I even tried preparing my own deodorant – unfortunately it didn’t work for me, but there are some recipes). It’s not that difficult, one just has to find the system that works, and then move on to the next area. For me, doing my own marmalade will be the next step. And I would love to skip the thousands of diapers with my baby soon to be born – we’ll see what my family says…
You work with waste, while the ultimate goal of your work is to stop waist from being generated – isn’t that a contradiction?
One leads to the other. Working with waste means placing it into the center of attention. We buy things and then throw them away, and when something turns into trash, it leaves our horizon, we don’t know and don’t care where it’s going and what will be done with it. When we pull out the waste out of the dustbin and put it on the table again, we have to face these questions. We realize that something we viewed as trash has a value of its own – and the work we put into it has added value as well. It is interesting to see how kids develop an emotional relationship with a piece of plastic while working with it, for example…
What kind of regular workshops do you have that enthusiastic readers could join?
Currently we have workshops at two locations, at the Noha Studio inBudapestand the Szélforgó Family House in Szentendre. On Thursday evenings we have the so-called Improvising Dress-maker’s Room in Noha for grownups, who can come here with old clothes they would like to transform, fabrics, or just ideas. We have eco-design workshops for kids on Mondays at Noha and on Wednesday every second week in Szentendre. And there is a Cellux Kid’s Kitchen at Moha Café and Gallery.
What is up next for the Cellux Group?
We would love to have our own space, and that wish now seems to come true with the support of the NESsT organization helping social enterprises – if everything goes well, we’ll have our own place in about a half a year. We’re also thinking about creating rentable objects, such as kids’ corners for different events. And there’s always something fun coming our way: some time ago we got the task of creating a human-sized chicken costume for the Fauna animal protection organization – out of trash, of course…