CHIA SHAN LEE
The Never Ending Story | Chia Shan Lee – Winner of One Hundred Days Environmental Track
Inspired by the concept of information overload in contemporary society and waste of resources associated to newspapers’ production, London-based artist Chia-Shan Lee narrates a contemporary fairy tale – metaphor of social and environmental issues – employing newspaper yarns as story-telling material. Combining critical theory with the creative aspect of textiles and the symbolic meaning of newspapers words, she designed a series of installations with the purpose of raising awareness on the issues of newspaper recycling and resources waste.
Chia-Shan Lee is a London-based textile artist and knitwear designer working in the fashion and art world since 2008. She uses newspaper yarn as a story-telling material as she believes that the abstract meaning of the words recording daily news fills it with emotions and messages. In her vision, the energy of the words is the key to rethink the values and use of newspapers and their impact on people’s life. The choice of knitting as her medium is also symbolic as the slow and ancient craft represents for her time for reflection and meditation. Even more, Chia-Shan employs the knitting technique because of the loops in the knit, which resemble connective stories: one loop links another loop like one story tells another story.
Her interest in environmental and social issues triggered her desire to know more about paper consumption and resources used in newspapers industry in the U.K. Her six-month-long research on its operations and distribution chain revealed staggering numbers: 13 million national newspapers sold each day with around 70 million regional free and paid-for papers circulated each week in 2004, around 2.5 million tonnes of newspapers produced and circulated each year, only 14% of unsold, untaken, or collected copies returned back for recycling, a low-average of 35 percent recycling and concerning lack of awareness from U.K. citizens, with only 27 percent of them worrying about destroying natural resources or understanding the impact of recycling. Indeed, the average person gets through 38kg of newspapers per year. It means consuming about 56.4 million trees per year in total if 100 percent virgin fibres were used for production. Producing newsprint emits around 1000 to 3000 kg CO₂ per tonne of newspapers. Recycling newspapers on the other side helps minimizing the use of virgin fibres (tree resources), reducing the amount of waste going to landfill, energy consumption and carbon emissions, with 70 and 80 per cent less energy consumption and 73% less air pollution compared to making paper from raw materials.
These numbers motivated Chia-Shan to use her skills and knowledge to design “The Never Ending Story” a series of installations with the objective of raising people awareness regarding the waste of paper and the seriousness of the issue. As textiles are constantly present in people’s life, especially as clothes that wrap us everyday and almost around the clock, it came natural to Chia-Shan to consider clothing as the best medium to express her concept: a visible form that allows people to understand how much paper and resources are wasted daily.
She then conceptualized a poetic fairy-tale in five chapters: a man studying and working hard to become successful feels the constant pressure of society until he finds a magic lamp that can realize any wish he wants. Every time he utters a wish ten trees will be destroyed. Time passes and he becomes lazier and lazier since the lamp can help him do anything until one day the world he lives in collapses. The world’s trees are gone. The man wakes up and realizes it is only a dream. He has still time to change his lifestyle to a more sustainable pattern.
For each of these stages, Chia-Shan created a specific artwork: iron chains and nets as symbol of constraint and stress people feel in contemporary society; a magic lamp, symbol of endless desires and greed regardless of the consequences; a video showing the procedure of the separated newspaper to imply the vanishing forest; a garment as metaphor for change, strangeness, looping and rejuvenation modelled in the shape of the Mobius Strip, the ubiquitous symbol for recycling, representing the process of transforming waste materials into useful resources; a flying bird expressing new life after change.
“Garments were made of newspapers from 2011, recording and preserving the news and events at the time. Afterwards, it will be almost impossible to find a large amount of newspapers from 2011. These works resemble vintage wines and antiques. As time passes by, you cannot find them anymore. Therefore, each work is unique and worth spending a lot of time to produce. When knitting these artworks, I thought about many things. I tried to imagine how long it takes to grow a tree from a seed, and compared it to throwing a piece of paper away which merely takes one second. Moreover, knitting is symbolic of a slow craft—time for reflection—knitting in a message. The life of newspapers has been transformed into something of greater value. I have raised the status of newspapers to a new level, that of art installations. Newspapers which leave the paper recycling circle, can not only be discarded nor recycled, but also can be upcycled to a piece of a beautiful work. These newspaper works can be worn and treasured; moreover, they can keep some news, events and memories. When enjoying these newspaper garments, I would like audiences to rethink the value and use of newspapers and their relationship with human beings.” Chia-Shan Lee, 2012
About Chia-Shan Lee
Born in 1985 on Taiwan, Chia-Shan Lee is a London-based textile artist and knitwear designer working in the fashion and art world since 2008. Chia-Shan has shown her work in Asia and Europe in several solo-shows and group exhibitions such as the Taipei World Design Expo in 2011, Taiwan and the Formosa Show, London Design Festival, Candid Arts Gallery in London in 2011. She was shortlisted as finalist for the Valcellina Award International Textile for the Fiber Art Competition, Italy in 2012. Chia-Shan holds a Bachelor degree in Textile design at Fu Jen Catholic University, Taiwan and a Master degree in Textile design at the Chelsea College of Art and Design. London. www.chiashanlee.com