Illuminating the art of recycling

Her creator, designer Philippe Bousquet, says she comes with a pay-off line. It’s more of a question really, intended to take the heat off him.

Is she, perhaps, “the perfect wife?” he asks.

Bousquet says his Marilyn “is not a sexist piece and it’s not a feminist piece — everybody can choose what they want it to be”.

At any rate, Marilyn is made out of domestic and industrial cast-offs. Her foot is an old vacuum cleaner, her skirt is a powder-blue factory lampshade, her midriff is a big kettle.
And her head? Here Bouquet can’t remember what he used. But her usefulness is enhanced by the fact that she carries a tray.

“All the robots I make are lights,” Bousquet says. “It’s just an excuse for a light, but they are all lights.”

Originally an architect from Marseilles in the south of France, Bousquet practised for seven years before moving on to jewellery design, sculpture, painting and furniture production.

Today, he is committed to his robotic lights and scours scrap yards, junk shops and pavements  for his raw materials. Bousquet says he is often saddened when he arrives after choice pieces have been cut up or squashed.  

However, in the last year he has filled his workshop in Bramley, Johannesburg, with enough stock to get him through the months ahead.

“I rarely use plastic or wood,” Bousquet says about his process. “So 99% of the time it’s metal. And there is not one piece that fits with another. The first thing I do is to model the robot.

“I don’t do any welding; everything is mechanical. I use screws and bolts and things like that. When I’m happy with all the details I undo the whole piece from A to Z, clean everything and powder coat what I need to.

“Powder coating is not really a paint and it’s not an enamel. It’s a powder you apply with a spray gun and then it is baked at a high ­temperature.”

Bousquet says he works completely alone, “because I can’t explain what I have in mind”.

The work, he says, fits perfectly with the African practice of ­recycling, on a continent where almost nothing goes to waste.

As for Marilyn: like all of Bousquet’s work she is completely unique. By the time you’ve ordered yours she’ll probably be sold, so expect to get something a little different. But just as useful.

Philippe Bousquet’s Marilyn sells for R22 000. To order, phone 082 579 6160 or email: [email protected]

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse is the arts editor of the Mail & Guardian, a position he has held since 1999. He has edited two anthologies: Positions (Steidl, Jacana Media 2010) about artists engaging with politics in South Africa today, and The Invisible Ghetto (GMP, 1994) a compilation of creative writing about gender. His essays have appeared in collected works about arts and culture here and abroad. He has worked in the theatre for over a decade as an actor, writer and senior publicist at the Market Theatre. Read more from Matthew Krouse

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