The first thing you’re likely to notice about Benjamin Van Oost’s Favela is that it’s made entirely of trash — recycled boxes, pieces of metal found on the street, toilet paper rolls, aluminum cans. And at a little over 1 meter in height, the sculpture appears as burgeoning and claustro-phobic as the real thing.
Favela is a Portuguese word most commonly translated in Brazil as “shantytown.” Built from materials ranging from bricks to garbage, favelas are plagued by sewage, crime, and hygiene problems. In most cases electricity is illegally tapped from the public grid. As a general rule, Brazilian cities do not recognize favelas as legal entities.
Dutch artist Van Oost began to conceive of Favela in 2007, with his girlfriend Annelies, after seeing the Brazilian film Cidade de Deus (City of God).
“The movie certainly inspired us in a way, but to be honest, we started building the Favela just because we felt the need to create something out of nothing,” Van Oost says. “We didn’t make any sketches before we started building and we didn’t know what the result would be.”
And it was only after seeing the work of Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez — “his maquettes, his utopian, modernistic architecture” — that the actual building process began. “The Favela originated in a creative ‘rush’ where we didn’t really know where it was going,” Van Oost remembers.
Van Oost, along with collaborator Mathieu Van Damme, founded Toykyo Productions, a design agency and production company, in\ 2007. Their projects include a cardboard backdrop used in a campaign for sleeping pills, decor for fashion shoots, and life sized statues in polyester. They also design T-shirts and do limited screen prints and graffiti.
Favela hasn’t yet been publicly displayed, but it has a place of prominence in Van Oost’s home in Belgium and is featured on his company website. “Everyone can have their own interpretation of the work, can create their own story within this micro world,” he enthuses.
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