Environmental Projects

Chopsticks

2001

Massive deforestation is taking place daily to produce a superfluous set of implements, disposable wooden chopsticks. Enormous tracts of forest in Asia have been razed to the point where landslides on several Indonesian islands resulted in the destruction of villages and deaths of many people. In general, deforestation causes water pollution, the disappearance of ecosystems and the displacement of animals. An alternative to wooden chopsticks are bamboo, which grows extremely fast and relatively sustainably. An even better option is for restaurants and individuals to use washable chopsticks, made of wood, plastic or metal.

For this exhibition, I covered the floor of a room with sawdust. At the center, I set a table for two, with soup bowls, glasses, napkins and a set of chopsticks. The space was darkened, and small spotlights shone light onto large photographic prints on the walls. From two loudspeakers, every few minutes the silence was broken by the roar of a chainsaw cutting down a tree, and then of the tree crashing to the ground.

I printed 5,000 flyers written in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and English, explaining the problem, asking restaurants to discontinue the use of wooden chopsticks and to substitute them with washable plastic or bamboo ones. I encouraged visitors to hand out flyers to their favorite “chopsticks using” restaurants. I have since reprinted the flyers several times, and regularly give them out to groups of students when I am invited to give a talk about my work.

Chopsticks (Installation view), Snug Harbor Cultural Center, NY, 2001 Chopsticks (detail), Snug Harbor Cultural Center, NY, 2001 Chopsticks (detail), Snug Harbor Cultural Center, NY, 2001 Chopsticks (detail), Snug Harbor Cultural Center, NY, 2001 Chopsticks (detail), Snug Harbor Cultural Center, NY, 2001 Chopsticks (detail), Snug Harbor Cultural Center, NY, 2001 Chopsticks (detail), Snug Harbor Cultural Center, NY, 2001 Chopsticks (detail), Snug Harbor Cultural Center, NY, 2001 Chopsticks (detail), Snug Harbor Cultural Center, NY, 2001 Chopsticks (detail), Snug Harbor Cultural Center, NY, 2001