Recycling bottles as a ball chandelier

Masterpiece Whirls will take the stage again in the Tanssin talo Erkko hall from the 20th to the 22nd. October 2022. The colorful contemporary ballet Whirls is about dancing in the spirals of human greed, the richness of life and the search for happiness.

Perhaps the most spectacular stage element in the Alpo Aaltokoski Company’s piece Whirls is the so-called “bottle ceiling” or chandelier seen in the second act. The set made of recycled materials already told a meaningful message in the first performance in 2011, but the speed up of the climate disaster makes it even more meaningful now in 2022.

American-Finnish artist Alisha Davidow has designed Whirls scenography. She has studied scenography, animation, and visual arts both in England (BA) and in Finland (MA). Davidow has designed sets, costumes and videos, for theatre, dance and concert stages both in Finland and abroad. Davidow’s works reflect the values that are important to her: nature, humanity, human rights, justice and equality.

Photo: Marko Mäkinen

Does goods make us happy after all?

Whirls is  a three act ballet based on the Finnish epic poem Kalevala and  wonder object sampo´s story. The central theme of the work is human’s ancient pursuit of happiness and balancing between temptations, greed and moderation, self and community. Every generation gets to find its own sampo. What does the sampo that lays golden eggs, the miracle machine that digests and grinds riches, mean in this time? What if sampo is in us?

Second act of Whirls is like a bacchanal of human desires. Davidow describes it as consumption party, where grandiosity, egoism and hedonism are present.

“People celebrate as if they were at the finest baroque party, but everything around is garbage. Plastic and garbage. Waste of all purchased goods. A thing that a person acquires, which does not make them happy. Self has disappeared.”

Whirls premiered in 2011 at Alexander Theatre. The idea of using plastic bottles came from the desire to create a huge chandelier for the bacchanals of the second act. The will was for a transparent material and withlighting designer they agreed on the aesthetics of through-lighting, which made Davidow end up with bottles as a material. The recycled material in the scenography also seamlessly communicates with the recycled material used in the costumes.

Plastic bottles are easy to get because there are so many of them. Fortunately, we recycle bottles in Finland and it is possible to get a large number of bottles from Palpa (Finland’s return packaging Oy). In the end, the bottles are returned to recycling.

“Plastic bottles themselves are a big problem in the world. Recycling systems are primitive or do not exist at all, the chandelier tells about that.”

Volume with low emissions

The chandelier in Whirls is a work of art in itself. There are a total of 4,000 bottles in the work. Because the stage of Tanssin Talo’s Erkko hall is so big, the quantity has increased by 2000 bottles from the original 2011 production. The work will be 14 meters wide and 12 meters long.

When it comes to the use of recycled material in the set, the best thing according to dawidov is definitely the no emissions, which is not completely zero, but almost. This is something that she, as a set designer, thinks about in all productions. Thinking about it from this point of view, it is wonderful for Davidow to design the Whirls.

It is worth reserve time and labor when using recycled material. The material exists and is ecologically recycled, but the simplicity remains here. Each bottle must be washed, the labels must be removed, holes must be drilled in the bottom, etc. Since the bottles are used and the dirt is stuck to them, it takes time to wash them. Davidow describes the work very monotonous, but at the same time meditative. As a material, the bottles are light, but when there is a lot of mass in a large quantity like in the Whirls, it gets heavy. Space is needed for transportation and processing, let alone storage.

It takes a total of three weeks and several hands to work on a huge number of bottles to make the gigantic stage element.

You will be able to see the finished piece as whole at performances of Whirls on October 20-22, 2022, in the Erkko hall of Tanssin talo.

There are only three performances, so book your tickets soon at tannsintalo.fi

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