Art promoter and curator Janneke Highstreets was clearing out her house recently when she realised how much plastic she had accumulated.
“It’s actually insane how much trash, plastic I use. Every time I go to the shop, even with my backpack, I come out with this plastic,” she said yesterday.
In Phnom Penh, the average citizen uses roughly 2,000 plastic bags per year, 10 times more
than someone in China or in the European Union, according to a 2015 survey conducted by anti-poverty group ACRA.
While Phnom Penh’s plastic plight has been well documented, Highstreets said she wanted to tackle the issue in a different way, culminating in the Speak Your Green environmental installation which opens tonight at Plantation Urban Resort & Spa.
It will also feature informative graphics sourced from ACRA which will show the impact humans have on the environment in Cambodia.
Highstreets said she wanted to combine an educational, interactive and artistic experience in order to challenge Phnom Penh’s environmental habits.
“This exhibition is different from other ones. We have a message. It’s a nexus between knowledge, education and art,” Highstreets said.
Using natural materials including pressed sawdust and bamboo sourced from Siem Reap, Highstreets has created a hanging installation. Participants are asked to enter booths and write messages on rice paper, including suggestions of what could be done to help curb their environmental footprint, as well as what they themselves have done, before placing the message on the installation.
Highstreets said it would be an excellent way to gauge community attitudes about the impact humans have on the environment and what could be done to tackle it.
“I still have a lot of environmental habits that I think I could change. I just want people to think about what is their role towards the environment,” she said.
Highstreets said the installation is designed to be in a state of flux, as people remove, rearrange or add their own messages, as an act of self-reflection and engagement with the people around them.
“It’s about getting people here and letting them participate,” she said, adding that the human element of these kinds of installations can prove difficult.
“Participation artwork is always a challenge because we are dealing with humans. If you want something to happen you need to have a very clear message.”
The opening night will include a speech from the minister of environment, as well as representatives from environmental NGO Go Green.
Lucy Muir, Plantation’s communications manager, said the event was a way of re-examining the issue of humans’ impact on the environment in a positive way.
“We want to bring local people into the space and create a discussion. There are a lot of projects are going on. It’s often we talk about the negative things, but we need some positivity going,” she said.
“It’s about spreading the word and getting opinions and engaging with how the community feels.”
Speak Your Green opens tonight at 6.30pm at Plantation Urban Resort & Spa, #28 Street 184.