How can art benefit the environment?
The Newspaper House helped the environment on multiple levels. Not only did it raise environmental awareness in a powerful and unique way, but it was created entirely from recyclable materials, thus contributing to environmental sustainability through utilising a pre-made resource.
When the Newspaper House installation was unveiled in London, it had a high impact on local communities as it represented the detrimental consequences their litter had on the environment.Through using old newspapers as materials, Erek not only gave new life to the exhausted paper, but he also used the images and words printed on the paper to represent the identities of every person featured in the paper. As a result, he conveys the message that the human identity, like the newspaper material, is recyclable, and can be reinvented with new purpose and value. This engages the audience on a personal, emotional level, forcing them to reconsider the impact their own actions have on the environment around them.
Erek also represents the value of the home as a place of belonging and security, as the audience can pass through the house, socialise with others, and be sheltered in their own stories, which are printed on the newspaper. The artwork preserves the history of the community in the pages of the newspaper, signifying the important role of a house as a storage facility, where a family’s history can be stored and built. This locates responsibility for the environment within each individual who passes through the house. Just as they feel a sense of belonging to the house, they should also become custodians of the environment and protect it like a home.
These powerful messages were further enhanced through the recyclable materials utilised to create the installation. Sumer Erek rolled over 150 000 London newspapers donated by the public into logs or sticks through the use of a specially invented paper-rolling machine. He then positioned these logs within the frame of the house, which was made from plywood panels, before securing the logs with ties. All of these materials (newspaper, plywood panels and sticks) are environmentally friendly and therefore represent the potential for recycled materials to take on new functions. As a result, Erek's work helps the environment because he proves the ongoing benefits of recycling to the wider community.