Recycling cell phones is as easy as finding a designated drop box in one of hundreds of Whole Foods stores nationwide, but when it comes to athletic gear, re-use options are much more limited. Until now, worn out cleats and basketballs were either bound for landfills or had the slim chance of finding a second life as a donation. RECYCLâart, an ongoing Japan-based project that pairs emerging artists with celebrity athletes, puts environmentalism at the forefront by reinventing clothes and equipment as art objects.Â In a traveling exhibit directed by Yuko Tamae of the IGFY Corporation (a company devoted to environmentalism in sports) along with curator and art critic Junji Ito, the venture explores the artistic potential of castoff sporting goods to raise ecological awareness, specifically among sports fans.
Now in its fourth year, the current show features 3-D works by seven different artists who created the sculptures out of baseball and soccer equipment donated by famous athletes. Some, like Seiko Obaraâs mobile (right) made from from Kenji Jyojimaâs soccer shoes, are more abstract interpretations of a playerâs abilities. Obara described his piece as an expression of Jyojimaâs âstrength and teamwork.â Other entries draw direct inspiration from the donor athleteâs talents, like artist (and kickboxer) Koji Iijimaâs masterful use of metaphor in his dog (above) that he made from the Yomiuri Giants first baseman Kazuhiro Kiyoharaâs baseball shoes and batting gloves . âI thought of Kazuhiro Kiyohara as he protects base and it reminded me of a guard dog protecting their home ground, Tokyo Dome,â Iijima explains, âWhenever the opponent comes, heâs ready to bite!â
Teaming art and environmentalism with sports heralds a new generation of treehuggers, a group of culturally and ecologically aware fans who care as much about athletics as they do about the state of the world. RECYCLâart is one of the first steps in showing how sports and environmentalism arenât mutually exclusive, paving the way for a future of greener sports.