A solo exhibition by Janelle Tang
When reality becomes disposable
It was in the August 1, 1955 issue of Life Magazine that the term throw-away society was first used. The article featured a monochromatic photograph of a family enveloped by various disposable items suspended in mid-air. The scene is frozen in time, as if in celebration; scraps of food and litter float like weightless debris, a still image of a people fascinated by what was then considered a novel concept. The magazine piece alluded to our entry into a new era, one which opted to see the tedious and often time-consuming process of cleaning up after oneself as an activity of the past, and where fast living has become the basis for progress and economic development.
Presently, some of the world’s most progressive societies have been able to successfully incorporate this so-called throw-away culture into everyday life, subsequently establishing a system of living heavily dependent on ease, accessibility, and disposability. Framed as a modern innovation symbolic of the contemporary and urban lifestyle, everyday products and household items are advertised for their one-time use, to be discarded once they are no longer functional. Decades later, we are beginning to feel the ramifications of our throw-away culture. More than a habit, it has transformed into a grim and definitive attribute of our society.
Janelle Tang delves into this phenomenon in her latest show “Sachet Culture.” A direct reference to the plastic sachets often used to package food and other basic necessities, the exhibit seeks to explore how deeply entrenched throw-away culture is in our collective consciousness. Familiar spaces are transformed into grim snapshots of a reality that is almost lifeless and lacking in spirit, framed at places by eye-catching and attractive colours – a testament to our strong affinity for the things we find pleasing to the sight. Much like the photograph from over six decades earlier, each work is a pause in the everyday flow of our lives, rendered from both within and without, and where the viewer becomes a witness and participant to the ways in which our surroundings continuously shift and change.
In “Sachet Culture,” there is an emphasis on what seems to be our growing need to exploit the things we consume. What began simply as a quest for ease and comfort has transformed into a fundamental aspect of our everyday lives, a necessity we find ourselves incomplete without, and which continues to affect not only the way we live but the decisions we make. As society grows more conscious of how dependent we have become to this lifestyle, “Sachet Culture” invites us to pause and look, to step back, observe, and understand, how every action we commit ourselves to, no matter how seemingly insignificant they may be, leaves an almost permanent impression on the world we live in.
Words by Elle Lucena