About a year ago, we decided to build a bridge out of single-use plastic water bottles. Great. Then what? Well, find someone who can execute your idea of course! But who would you turn to? An architect? A contractor? We found an unlikely builder for our unconventional project. Meet the man who is building our bridge as we speak: Colin Hendee, Burning Man artist.
The man behind the glasses
When talking to Colin Hendee, you start believing that Legos are for amateurs. He is a builder. Or rather a creator. ‘Even as a child I can remember working on constructions. Like building a robot suit out of tape, or taking apart my parents’ phone.’ We can only imagine their proud faces at the time.
Around 2003 Colin discovered the Burning Man Community in Denver. And his creativity flamed: ‘At Burning Man you are in a completely different environment, an experience. It is awesome to be a part of that. And it really allows me to push the envelope. While working on sculptural builds and designs, I can try out new things, be creative.’ Since then, Colin has created many impressive structures, light installations, art pieces and more. Where did he learn all this? ‘You can say I am self taught… and of course there’s YouTube. Once I knew the basics, I started to learn more about new materials and tried to work with them.’
The odd one out
Trying out new materials is one thing, but the Dopper Foundation asked Colin to build a structure of P.E.T. bottles. Colin: ‘When I heard about this project, I immediately thought this would be cool. I enjoy odd things, and this project is definitely different! On top of that, this project is also something I philosophically stand behind. I’m kind of an environmentalist. I spent a lot of years doing biodynamic agriculture, you know: responsible farming, low water usage, low amount of waste. I always found the disposable culture upsetting and I try to live as sustainable as possible. And this bridge really links back to that.’
Plastics on my mind
The Dopper Foundation collected thousands of single-use plastic water bottles in New York to build the bridge with. Colin: ‘These bottles stand for the amount of plastic bottles that are purchased every quarter second in the US. I’ve never seen anything like it. Every time I’m working on the bridge, it crosses my mind that we’re basically throwing these piles into our oceans. Building this impressive structure angers and motivates me at the same time. It is hard to see all these big bags filled with plastic bottles staring you in the face, but on the other side of the coin, this is an opportunity to make an art piece to explain the situation of our oceans. To get the word out to the people and start doing something about it
The bridge to cross
The ultimate outcome of the Plastic Bridge Project for Colin? ‘Make an impact. there are a lot of bottles. So hopefully the people who see this bridge, will start to think about alternatives, get a sustainable water bottle and install a filter to drink from the tap every day. That would be the goal. But it doesn’t end there. Hopefully, people will translate the insight about their throwaway lifestyle into different aspects of life, so the impact goes beyond just water bottles. Those people will start bringing their own bag when they go to the grocery store instead of using a plastic one. Small changes like that can make all the difference.’
Spark that one kid
This plastic bridge is built as a message, as an inspiration. For adults, but especially for kids. ‘When I was a kid I loved big weird things. This bridge is so big, so it will definitely catch a kids’ eye for sure. And if we tell the story right, you can get real awareness into their heads at a young age. It’s their formation years. So if you can get them to care about ocean life and the environment now, impact may be huge. Spark that one kid, and who knows, he or she might make a huge impact 10 to 15 years down the line.’