Li Shangtong was born in 1997 in Qinghai, China. In 2019, she recieved her BFA in Interdisciplinary Sculpture with a concentration in Sustainability and Social Practice at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, Maryland. Li creates environmentally concerned works through the lens of a young Chinese female. Li confronts the modern mass culture and the relationship we have with our environment. She is questioning what is sustainability today by creating materials from domestic wastes and sharing these recipes and processes through workshops and as open source. She has been nominated to receive the 2019 Sculpture Magazine Student Award. She had her first solo exhibition “evanesce” in the Gateway Gallery at MICA. She was the 2018 Extreme Arts intern for the Hopkins Extreme Material Institute/MICA Extreme Arts Summer Project/Internship where she completed an independent research project in three months by working collaboratively with the research professor and the graduate students in the Kang Lab. Shangtong currently works and lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
My current works are series of experiments that make materials out of everyday waste. This series demonstrates my concern for the environment by finding the potential of wastes by pulping, grinding, mixing, and testing to create new materials. Confronting our modern mass culture and disposable lifestyle has challenged me to examine the relationship we have with our environment. Our trash does not simply “disappear” when it is removed from our sight. These wastes continue to have an active role on our planet resulting in toxins, leachate, and greenhouse gases. By expanding the assigned lifespan of single-use products, I view waste as a resource to recognize both the potential and the hazards in the items we throw away and the privilege we have in doing so.
Our individual lifestyles form a collective impact on our planet and the lives within. With environmental responsibility in mind, I experiment with common wastes, such as paper bags, cardboard boxes, plastic bags, orange peels, corn husks, sawdust, etc. The results are materials with unique textures and distinct properties that can be used in different applications. I consider every aspect of making these materials: energy usage, lifecycle, and ingredients. Through the creating of these materials, I am re-examining what sustainability means in our ever-changing climate.
I am developing recipes and processes that are accessible and available in order to introduce and challenge the concept of sustainability. My goal is for them to be made by students and people from all backgrounds, economic levels, and educational attainments. The results are shared online to foster an open-source community of makers who can experiment with these wastes and make their own versions according to their needs and expertise. In tandem with my art making, I facilitate workshops on how to make these materials by inviting people to collect their own domestic waste and introduce their potential. The intent is not to create a perfect material but rather to focus on the possibilities emerging from these self-made materials and continue to explore the cultural and social implications of sustainability today.