In a city that’s slowly sinking underneath the weight of its own waste due to the lack of effective waste management and recycling mechanisms, Cambodians have displayed an incredible level of ingenuity when it comes to recycling and up-cycling waste materials. But as Phnom Penh’s city proper continues to expand and its population continues to consume, the majority of these waste materials often end up by the side of the streets – untended to, and more often than not, left to the mercy of the elements. To decay, or to be picked by the city’s numerous street recyclers.
But as they say, another man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
As such, artist Valentin Walker (also known by as Alias 2.0) in a stark departure from his signature style that is characterised by his incorporation of religious symbolism, calligraphy, while mixing it up with graffiti, decided to take it to the next level – he combed the city’s poorest neighbourhoods for materials that no-one would even take a second look at, to be turned into a series of art installations dubbed ‘Feel Free’, which will run at Phnom Penh’s Plantation Hotel until May 2, 2018.
“I went as far as the Phnom Penh’s peri-urban areas to collect all these materials – discarded corrugated iron, wood planks, whatever people are willing to give away,” explained Walker. “It took me a while to figure out what to do with it – but eventually I found a way to showcase the inherent rawness of the var-ious materials, and use it to show that matter is never created nor destroyed, only transformed.”
Eleven of Walker’s pieces are currently exhibited at Plantation Hotel, which ranges from pieces with a steam-punk feel made out of corrugated iron and discarded wood, to Walker’s signature murals. But there is a tie that binds the various works that Walker has on display at the exhibition – that beauty in-deed, lies in the eyes of the beholder.
And often, all it takes, is a second look on things that other people would otherwise dismiss as rubbish.
“If you observe your surroundings and pay attention to detail, you find art everywhere,” he concluded. “I am taking a piece of the city and mixing it with my technique, to express my time in Cambodia. Every day is new, and I’m showing my way.”