Students at a school in Penghu County have taken plastic recycling to a new level with an art installation that is also a musical instrument.
While recycling plastic and other debris that washes up on beaches and turning them into art has become a trend in the county, the students at Niaoyu Elementary School in Baisha Township’s (白沙) Niaoyu Islet (鳥嶼) are the first to create a musical instrument out of trash.
The island is known for a sandbar teeming with marine life that is visible during low tide.
The school — the only elementary school on the island — organized an art project for students with the theme “technology and marine ecology,” and invited local artist Bruce Wu (吳成夫) to advise students on making art out of trash.
The students decided to base their art project on the small octopus, which is indigenous to the county and abounds in the waters near the island.
The students picked up buoys, sandals, polystyrene foam, driftwood and other trash that had washed ashore and assembled the items into the shape of an octopus with its legs outstretched in different directions.
They made it musical by giving it a “mouth” made of pipes of various lengths. Wind passes through the pipes, which each produce sound at a different pitch.
Wu said that the idea of making the installation an instrument was inspired by the way in which local residents prepare octopus for cooking — starting with pounding the meat to tenderize it.
The sound of the beating is reminiscent of a musical performance and the plastic sandals like those the students collected while cleaning beaches are often used to beat octopus meat, he said.
A string of buoys of varying size next to the installation represent an octopus’ eggs, but they also add to the “performance” when they knock about in the wind, he added.
Wu said that he hopes the installation will serve as a reminder about the need to protect marine ecology.
Octopus populations have over the past several years been dwindling due to the destruction of their habitat and overfishing, he said.