Let’s hear it for the “Big Clear Plastic Ear,” the singing recycling bin at the 2018 Vines Art Festival

Since 2015, the Vines Art Festival has provided a platform for artists to create work that focuses on the environment. This year, Matthew Tomkinson, a PhD student in theatre studies at UBC Theatre and Film, conceptualized the “Big Clear Plastic Ear” (BCPE), an interactive sound sculpture on display at the event.

Though the sculpture is meant to abstractly represent what goes on internally in the ear, the piece will be emitting sound instead of taking it in.

“[T]he structure is two parts: an ear on the top and the … container beneath it in which recycling falls into,” explained Tomkinson.

“[T]he general idea is that the ear in this sculpture is producing sound and is also functioning as a waste disposal unit like a city of Vancouver official recycling bin, and by putting your recycling [in] … you are also altering the sound … that is coming out of the ear.”

In line with the festival, which focuses on environmental awareness, the “BCPE” will be made completely of recycled material without the use of glue or tape. Tomkinson and Vines veteran Elissa Hanson, who is helping to create this piece, believe artists shouldn’t squander environmental resources for their art.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to consume more in order to bring awareness to things,” said Hanson. “It seems backwards to me.”

In the context of this eco-art, Tomkinson’s concern lies with noise pollution in Vancouver and protecting the silent spaces we are still fortunate to have. “BCPE” could be interpreted as a parallel to our contributions to the Vancouver soundscape, promoting mindfulness and bringing awareness to the audience’s surroundings.

Throw a bottle into the “Big Clear Plastic Ear” on August 18 to 19 at the Vines Art Festival in Trout Lake Park.