Everyone who lives in Bali or even just stays in Bali for a short while will know his murals. Slinat aka Silly in Art runs the small Art of Whatever Store in the island’s capital Denpasar, where he sells second hand garments upcycled with art in the words most literal sense; “upcycling means to recycle (something) in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item”.
Additionally, his shop is a gallery for his artwork and his customers can furthermore deliver their favourite shirt, jacket, jeans, shoes, skateboard etc., and Slinat will decorate it with a one-of-a-kind art-piece. Finally, Slinat is, as mentioned, an amazing street artist and the man behind the many intriguing murals you will find all over the Southern part of Bali.
Most on Slinat’s artwork is a visual comment on the development in Bali; the movement from an agricultural, traditional society to a society that bases its income on tourism, the increased air and plastic pollution on the island, on the damages from mass-tourism; on nature and on culture, on disrespect for nature, and on the absurdity in holy balinese ceremonies being reduced to the perfect backdrop for a tourist photo (“Take my picture and say that my culture is beautiful”, as it says below one of his paintings of a balinese woman showing her middle finger).
In this interview, I will share Slinat’s thoughts on pollution and the consequences of mass-tourism, but also a variety of his amazing artwork; his pieces are so captivating and thought-provoking that words are almost redundant.
Please make sure to visit his instagram account to see more and if you are in Bali, visit his shop in Denpasar.
What does sustainability mean to you?
“To me, sustainability is all about respecting nature. The biggest threat to nature is pollution, because it creates an imbalance in the natural cycles, and hence the flow is hampered.”
“I furthermore work a lot with the environmental consequences of mass-tourism in Bali. My emblem therefore is an ancient Balinese man or woman wearing a gas mask.
Lots of tourist postcards and souvenirs picture ancient Balinese people wearing traditional, ceremonial clothes. These photos are used as promotion tools by the tourist industry.”
“Tourism on this island continues to grow. Land that should be used for wild nature to thrive and for sustainable farming is being turned into hotels and air-conditioned villas made of concrete. And the same goes for the ocean; it is exploited and needs to be restored.
Damage to the natural environment on this island caused by the greedy tourism industry continues to increase, and it only benefits the investors. But an additional problem is that the local people who happen to live in tourist areas get spoiled by and grow dependent on the cash flow. Many local people who previously worked in nature, which is a much slower process (for example seaweed farmers or rice farmers) have promptly changed their profession when tourism has started to grow in their areas and have become villa entrepreneurs or keepers, or service employees in hotels, bars or restaurants.”
“An example of the disturbance of the natural cycle is the following: when the seaweed farmers stop farming seaweed in order to focus on servicing tourists, and the areas for seaweed farming turn into crowded tourist areas, turtles who naturally inhabit such areas, because they look for food here, become endangered, and the natural balance, including the natural food chain, collapses.”
Seaweed farming is, as a sidenote, often highlighted by conservationists as a sustainable industry worth preserving, as it causes very little or no damage to the environment and allows reefs to flourish unencumbered by human degradation.
“Indirectly, and even directly, mass-tourism changes the cycle that exists in nature as well as the balance between nature and people.
But despite hereof, the government in Bali is very focused on developing and boosting the tourist industry, which is expressed in the large number of hotels being built all over Bali.
I guess the hope is that the Balinese people can earn a good living from tourism. But now, during the Covid 19 pandemic close to 100% of tourism has stopped, and consequently people are confused and scared because they have lost their jobs and hereby their monthly income.”
“Meanwhile, here in Bali there are many other potentials that require more attention from the government, such as for example agriculture. Bali has a lot of rice fields and the natural irrigation system in Bali, or the subak, which consists of a system of intertwined weirs and canals that draw from a single water source, has been in decline for a while now and is slowly deteriorating; it needs renovation.
Furthermore, local fishermen should be supported as they carry out the cycle of life in a natural, non-exploitable manner.”
How would you describe your art?
“I distribute my artwork in public spaces and I make indoor works as well. I often use secondhand items.”
As written above, Slinat upcycles secondhand garments by decorating them with art; you can see beautiful examples thereof at Art of Whatever. This way of upcycling is intriguing to me; Slinat turns castoff items into one-of-a-kind objects or what you could describe as soft wearable galleries. This is the ultimate upgrade of a thing that was experienced as obsolete by its previous owner and thrown away.
“For a while now I have been working with the X Visit Bali Year X theme, which is a parody of the tourist industry in Bali that a few years ago used this slogan. In my X Visit Bali Year X pieces I don’t picture the archetypical exotic Bali or “Bali as the last paradise”, but rather traditionally dressed local people wearing gas masks and polluted nature.”