Save the Earth

Artist: Sabina Shikhlinkaya, Emil Mejnunov
Location: Baku, Azerbaijan
Year of completion: 2013
Researcher: Giusy Checola

Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan, moreover then the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region. It's a southern city where the temperature can rise up to 45 degrees in the summer time, and population consumes a lot of bottled water since tap water is unsafe to drink. At the same time, plastic bags are sold in unlimited quantities in all shopping malls without any extra charge, and the strong winds across the surface of the Caspian sea scatter them until they get stuck in the trees. As known, plastic waste does not biodegrade for centuries and thus it represents a serious environmental threat. Moreover, when burned down, plastic becomes a dangerous carcinogen.

In 2013 YARAT Contemporary Art Space selected artist Sabina Shikhlinkaya after launching an open call for local artist to work on this issue in the frame of the Public art Festival 2013, in order to sensitize Baku residents and to interact with them. The artist conceived a graffiti-decorated bus to reach various Baku's locations with explanatory leaflets.

More Below

Thanks to the fruitful collaboration with the administration of the Central bus station, that agreed to host the opening event and helped to distribute flyers via ticket boxes, a decommissioned bus was purchased and turned into a plastic collecting vehicle parked in a widely used bus station.

The central city bus station was chosen as the first location of the artwork because of the high number of people arriving and departing from it to various regions of Azerbaijan. The bus was stationed in the main parking area and each person who happened to be there could contribute to the project by putting an empty plastic bottle into the bus, and passengers received a flyer with information about the project along with their ticket.

In a still traditional art context, Sabina Shikhlinkaya managed at producing an artwork that was both an eye-pleasing decorated bus and, at the same time, a bottle bin, where all passers-by were welcome to raise their voices in favour of cleanliness and order in their native city, by throwing bottles into the bin. Both the artist and project organisers strived to find out the most effective way of plastic reprocessing.

In one year the Save the Earth bus went around the Baku districts, then it travelled from Baku to Barda region of Azerbaijan and arrived in Absheron district, where the children school helped to clean the beach. In each region where the bus stopped, it inspired people to pay more attention to the immediate surrounding and stimulated them to learn more about ecology.

Currently, the bus is used by ASAN (The State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan), and is making tours into some regions of Azerbaijan.

According to YARAT curators, this project has achieved 3 main goals: it taught people to dispose a different kind of waste separately and not to mix plastic, paper and organic products; it encouraged the local authorities to approach the environmental issues seriously; it made clear for the local business that recycled plastic could be used and reused successfully to bring money to the economy and bring profits to individual entrepreneurs.

Save the Earth project referred both to the local and global dimension of environmental issues since waste material output keeps on increasing in all the world, while recycling is stiil minimal.

By transforming a local bus into a plastic-collecting vehicle parked at the widely used bus station, Shikhlinskaya hopes to heighten environmental awareness. The graffiti-decorated bus moved to various locations around the station with explanatory leaflets disseminated widely. It directly refers to global environmental issues since waste material output keeps on increasing while recycling still leaves a lot to be desired. The Baku Central Bus Station was purposefully selected as a venue because hundreds of local residents visit this site every day. In an attempt to keep a public eye on environmental problems, the artwork author conceived a specific creative experiment. Shikhlinkaya has replaced the boring litter cans that we're used to by a beautifully crafted and colored piece of art. All passers-by have been welcomed to raise their voices in favor of cleanliness and order in their hometown by throwing bottles into the bin. Both the artist and YARAT! Contemporary Art Space strived to find the most effective way of plastic reprocessing.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency