EPS art: Of “Styrobots” and stage sets
An everyday product in the hands of artists.
Brussels — “I love the idea that an everyday product can be looked at in a completely new way by making small changes,” artist Michael Salter said of his use of discarded Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) packaging to comment on the visual culture around him.
EPS is used by thousands of artists around the world to express their opinions and vision of the world. From Carnival to Christmas, and in the Covid times in a vaccination centre, art that is made of EPS, including “waste” EPS, surrounds us–even though we sometimes don’t recognise the material that gives such shapes their form.
Many artists glue chunks of EPS together to make them fit the spaces where they are exhibited. Take Karoline Hinz, who is a scene sculptor and a propmaker. For years she has been making stage sets out of EPS for theatre, music, and film productions. She compares the use of this flexible material to a pixelated image that slowly takes shape. After completing classical training at the Berlin Opera and by learning various sculpting and painting techniques, she can bring the most absurd ideas to life with EPS.
The material has established itself as a material for entertaining, oversized installations, and stage sets because it is comparatively inexpensive, easy to work with and extremely light (after all, it’s 98% composed of air). This makes it also very easy to assemble and dismantle, as it can be lifted without much effort.
It is convenient that artists can get hold of EPS for free from recycling bins and containers. Michael Salter explained that in his early days, he still went looking for EPS in such containers and also asked the public for donations. In a way, artists like Mr Salter are able to recycle EPS and give it a new life and purpose.
At the end of the day, and following many of these exhibitions, parties, and theatre performances, most of the art has to be taken apart and the individual parts made of EPS can be collected and recycled again—maybe even as another Styrobot or theatre set.