I spent the past week with nine of my best friends in Vermont, building the sculptures you see in these photos. They’ll be part of the set for an upcoming Lillian performance. A couple months ago, I googled “plastic bottle light sculptures” and the first result I found was this.
I discovered that two women in Malaysia, Lisa Foo and Mah Su Sim, design and build sculptures far more beautiful than I’d imagined. I got in touch with them and they offered to design pieces for me.
They told me in order to pull off my plan, I’d need 30,000 bottles and a crew of 30 people to work for a week. Obviously I scaled it down.
I ended up finding 3,000 mixed-plastic bottles at TAM waste-management facility in Shaftsbury, Vermont. When I checked these bottles out, I realized something I hadn’t thought of before… how would I clean them all? They were sticky from food waste, some were molding… it was pretty gross.
I ended with the following plan: I’d buy two 8” kiddie pools, fill them with bleach and baking soda, then hire five, ten to eighteen-year-old kids to help me dumpster dive, sink the bottles into the solution, hose them off, and bag them up. This took an entire day but was some of the most fun I’ve ever had.
One little dude, with a reverse-mohawk, told me the moment he showed up, “I got kicked out of camp for dumpster diving.” Needless to say he was my right-hand man the rest of the day.
One week later, I’m back in NY. It’s the day before I’m set to head up to Vermont to build. I head over to this light store in Chinatown and learn none of the lights I need are in stock. I quickly discover that all the LEDs I need will be impossible to find. Apparently it’s “off” season or something (I guess it is as far as you can get from Christmas) so no stores carried them. The only manufacturers I could find were out of the country and would take weeks to ship.
Somehow, buried deep in the threads of some random website, I read that this one company had a warehouse in Brooklyn. I found the address and drove over that morning. It was a Chinese company and the one woman in the office who spoke English told me they never sold directly to customers and that I’d have to order online.
I pleaded. She turned out to be cool. She ended up giving me all the lights I needed on the spot and for literally 1/10th the price that they were online.
That next day I drove up and we began to work. Some photos from our process are displayed above. This was one of the most fulfilling, fun and overall best weeks of my life. Thanks to everyone involved!