I first used waste cardboard for making art in 1994, in an environmental exhibition called Trophies. This was a protest against deforestation, as over 80% of felled trees are pulped to make paper and cardboard, resulting in the loss of habitat for many animals now becoming endangered and extinct. In Trophies 10 animal heads were wall-mounted on trophy plates with two long tree-saws underneath, in the manner of sporting rifles displayed below real animal heads by so-called ‘sportsmen’.
I found cardboard so versatile that I continued to use it for later exhibitions.
In 2001 I constructed a sculptural installation called no access which consisted of 5 bricked-up doorways guarded by large Crusader-type figures over 2 metres tall, made from waste cardboard. In this installation I was using sculpture as a vehicle to demonstrate the enormous scale possible, and the craftsmanship which could be achieved, with waste cardboard.
Waiting Room comes from a later installation in waste cardboard which protested against the Federal Government’s treatment of asylum seekers. Waiting 2002 comprised Waiting Room, 40 standing figures inside a chainwire compound topped with barbed wire titled, and Waiting to be Processed, 40 inverted hanging figures. All of the life-sized figures, from adults to babies, had a black card over their eyes, representing the media icon for a person whose identity is not to be revealed. It also saves us from looking into their eyes and allowing them to see our guilt and embarrassment. Many of the figures have a subtle cardboard strip pasted over the mouth area, some with simulated stitches representing the time when detainees stitched their lips together and went on hunger strike in a vain protest against the long wait for their release from custody.
The installation as a whole was intended to give a feeling of the hopelessness of the situation for a group of persecuted people from a different culture, vainly asking for our help, and the treatment that they have received from the government of a more affluent society.
Terry Summers, November 2002