Hiroshi Fuji felt uncomfortable about the excessive amount of plastic of toys in his children’s lives, so he started making thought-provoking social sculptures. One of his most ambitious to date, Jurassic Plastic, is part of this year’s Sydney Festival.
Here, Fuji shares his thoughts on consumerism, waste and guilt with Audrey Journal.
“My simple message is ‘have fun!’ And in the future, let’s take a closer look at this,” Fuji says.
“When I first started creating these sculptures, I was living in Japan, where plastic was so prevalent, and wherever you looked, the volume of plastic around you was growing and growing … it was awful and I would wonder ‘why is there so much of it?’. I started to feel such a deep sense of discomfort about it – in Japanese we say ‘iwakan’ – it’s a feeling of unease. And I couldn’t shake it.
Plastic was invented and came into our society in the form of consumer products in the same decade as I was born – in the 1960s. I think that by the time I die – so, in my lifetime – or at least within 100 years, plastic will be gone.
This will be due to the problems with crude oil, the negative effect it has on society and the environment, and nowadays of course we have biodegradable plastic. So I think the plastic that we know now will disappear within my lifetime.
If you look at it like that, it’s quite a short span of time that this product ‘plastic’ has come into our world and totally changed it. It’s a material that’s had a radical effect on the whole world.
But we happen to be living in this era where plastic is everywhere and we can’t escape that. If you look at it this way, and if we agree that it’s only here with us for a short time, then I think it’s important to face it head-on. Rather than thinking about whether you love it or hate it, you face it. I think we have no choice but to look it straight in the eye.
Of course if you just choose to throw it out – and most people do just that – then that’s the end of it, but this is the only moment we have to be with it, and face it. That’s what I’m doing.
The starting point was when my family and I decided not to create any garbage.
We didn’t throw anything out. So of course we ended up with so many toys and it was really hard to separate them because they contained so many different materials.
We tried to work out how we could use them in a different way. My daughter decided to open a shop, but I didn’t want the children handling money so we set it up as a kind of barter stall for kids, where they could manage the shop, practice counting, and trade items.
And that got me thinking about how to turn it all into something that we can’t put a monetary value on.
People avoid looking at plastic waste. So my work is about staring it in the face, and bringing it into the open. People are confronted with something that they’ve been averting their gaze from. At first it’s beautiful, but behind that lies the deeper questions of ‘why is there so much stuff?’ and ‘what’s going to happen to it all?’
The sole purpose of my work is not about a message. Rather than trying to lecture people about plastic, I’m simply giving insight into a subject that I’ve been considering intently, and that we can’t ignore. So for visitors to the exhibition, children and families, my simple message is ‘have fun!’ and, in the future, let’s take a closer look at this.
But really, this whole situation is not the children’s fault. Kids have done nothing wrong. They haven’t created this. We really need manufacturers and companies to take a closer loo. They are the ones with the responsibility to consider the impact of their output.
Even parents who buy or let their children play with plastic toys, I don’t blame them, or think they’re the problem. It’s hard to not have these things. They’re all around us. Telling people what they can and can’t use, feeling like we have to do everything perfectly … it just makes everyone really stressed and that’s never good. If you start to think about it, it’s endless. You can’t live like that.
* This edited interview was conducted in Japanese and translated into English. Thank you to Kathryn Hunyor at ArtsPeople for her translation.
Jurassic Plastic is a free Sydney Festival event. There are several ticketed workshops for 6–12-year-olds, or an Up Late session for the 18+ crowd.
One-hour Makerspace workshop sessions for 6–12 year-olds
Where kids get hands-on, building their own crazy and creative toy sculptures.
One-hour Atelier sessions with Hiroshi Fuji or a guest artist for 6–12 year-olds
Kids get to be artist assistants with Hiroshi Fuji, or a guest artist, to make Sydney’s ‘Toysaurus’ and other works of art.