Last week I had the opportunity to watch renowned artist Marina DeBris unveil her latest work, Disposable Truths, at Sydney’s iconic MLC Centre. But true to DeBris fashion, she seemed very modest in the spotlight and had her art piece speak the necessary truth on the environmental consequences of waste.
Resembling a hurricane, or a willy-willy as some Australian attendees have pointed out, Disposable Truths was made from over 1600 used coffee cup lids collected over the course of a month at the MLC Centre. With a closer look you’ll see lipstick stains, mould, and coffee smudges on many of them. Signs that the lids were all clearly used and discarded without much thought.
The sculpture’s aim was to bring attention to just how much mindless waste comes from our daily routines and just how much of it can be prevented if we were mindful instead. It quite literally took DeBris “Blood, sweat, and tears – blood from sewing, sweat from all the hours, and tears from the many trial-and-errors” to create this piece. But she assures saving our planet is a much easier process that begins with something as simple as committing to reusable coffee cups. Though she had begun this project before Hurricane Harvey, DeBris mentioned the natural disaster as proof for why we needed to reduce waste and better our sustainability efforts now.
Personally, this piece reminded me of the little brown swirl that forms when we stir our coffee. In my mind, the innocent swirls we create in our coffee cups contrast greatly with the disastrous effects of tornados, hurricanes, and other consequences of climate change, of which we are also responsible. I don’t know if that was DeBris’ intention but that’s the thing about artists – they invite us to understand their ideas and inspirations and prompt us to form our own.
The evening itself was a pleasant event. Stylish canapés and a minibar matched the grand interior of the MLC foyer. The most fitting detail was the KeepCups being used as vases along side neatly stacked cards on every table. The cards had a striking fact about waste on the front and a discount code for a KeepCup purchase on the back. The MLC Centre’s effort in reducing the very waste that commissioned Debris work was clear. Of course, the irony is that the artwork and evening would not have existed had there not been such waste. But as I’m sure DeBris and all of the other attendees would agree, it is better the irony and sculpture itself lost than our only planet.
What now? Coffee loving Sydney-siders, it’s time to think about what mark you’re leaving, not on the coffee cup but on the Earth. A small stir in habit can lead to a grand consequence later. We only have one planet, let’s take care of it.