Typical mediums for art include paint, clay, and perhaps film. But one artist has turned to dining utensils in her artwork.
Donna Keiko Ozawa, a Japanese-American who lives in San Francisco, uses chopsticks in her Waribashi project to make a point about wastefulness and environmental responsibility. She fashions washed and dried chopsticks into primitive, abstract installations held together through the manipulation of static electricity, gravity, and drilled holes.
Ozawa sees the disposable wooden chopsticks that have become an essential part of pan-Asian culture and cuisine as threats to the environment. Over 70 billion waribashi – wari means “break,” and bashi is another way to say hashi, or chopstick – are used annually in China and Japan, constituting a huge drain on natural resources.
“I feel like chopsticks are just raining down,” she says. “I have anxiety about disposable chopsticks. In 1999, before I went to Japan, they were just stats, shocking ones and huge numbers, but still just numbers. Then I saw how many used ones I could collect that were going straight to the landfill. Eleven little noodle shops in 12 days. 15,000-plus waribashi.”
Ozawa, who has displayed her Waribashi project in San Francisco and Tokyo, suggests that lovers of sushi and other Asian cuisine use reusable chopsticks instead.