Starscape Enterprise: DIY Planetarium of Reused Objects


Planetarium dome with creators and crew. Photo by Charles Mallison

Beyond an unmarked doorway, only distinguishable by a Land Shark Ale advertisement splashed across on its curved glass walls, lies Environmentaland. Set in a Hollywood mega-mall, home to the Oscars' Kodak Theatre, it opens into a warehouse-like room. The so-called "eco-theme park" from nonprofit Global Inheritance, displays energy exhibits including alt-fueled golf carts, painted waste bins, and a see-saw energy generator. In one corner, a geodesic dome reveals the first installment of the ambitious "Reclamation Project," powered by the kinetic energy of two Cal Art grads. I crawled inside.


Entrance to Environmentaland's eco-gallery in unlikely Hollywood location.

I entered through a recycled cloth curtain, immediately surrounded by a starry night sky covering the white papered dome. The authentic rendering was recreated with pinholes painstakingly pricked onto a black paper cylinder. "The only new material we used were staples—from recycled metal," explained Drew Denny, who transformed her ethics and politics major to create this mini-planetarium with her partner, writer Kyoung Kim. The "starball" was a little contraption of reused items made from the gears of a 1890s phone, a flashlight crank, found wood, and an LED lightbulb. The installation is the first in their four-part eco-art project.

What if people took the environment as seriously as religion?

"We started by posing that question as a point of contemplation," she said about the interactive collaborative endeavor. "We'd like to bring environmentalism to a broader audience." Though the project doesn't asked overtly, we know it can cause wars and determines how people dress and eat. I considered what other values and behavior can translate from religious beliefs to sustainability with the same fervor?

Drew and Kyoung devotedly folded (and folded) 6,000 sheets of paper from a recycling bin into quilted sections covering the dome's reclaimed PVC pipe structure inside and out. Then they conscientiously assembled it with homemade rice paste (rice + salt + water) instead of toxic paste, on the outside and inside, over hours and weeks. The dome is on exhibit through October 31.



Close-up of quilt and interior of planetarium dome with 6000 sheets of recycled paper. Photos by Charles Mallison.

Next in the Reclamation Project series are the Aquarium, Solarium and Terrarium. Drew just learned that a 500-year-old church in the Netherlands will host the Terrarium where tall glass structures will be filled with earth and native plants at the artist space, Hotel Mariakapel in Hoorn. The Solarium will also be installed here in LA and they're awaiting an okay for a lower Manhattan venue for the Aquarium. Then the goal is to exhibit all four together.

"Trash is the new medium," said Drew about political art. She's also a photographer, who's worked in Bolivia documenting a school health center run by women with micro-loans. Counting the endless hours it took to build the planetarium, she gave up. "If only Captain Planet had been here. Earth! Fire! Wind! Water! Heart!" She crossed her arms in salute to the eco-action hero — doing her part to take pollution down to zero.

More on art from trash:
Rethinking Trash into Inspired Art
Garbage Art: Plastic Bags Come to Life
Cool Globes: Purpose Driven Art on Display in Los Angeles
Radical Nature Comes to the Art Gallery
"Home Dome" Wins Trash to Treasure Challenge

Tags: Alternative Energy | Domes | Recycled Building Materials | Recycling | Reusability