Porky Hefer’s recycled sea monsters make us reflect on the impact of waste

‘Plastocene – Marine Mutants from a Disposable World’ by Porky Hefer was named Best Cautionary Tale in the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2022

Two pieces by Porky Hefer, representing an octopus and a fish, made of recycled materials
Buttpuss, a 14m-wide octopus made of felt cigarette butts, and Suckerfish, featuring 120 crocheted straws, form part of Hefer’s ‘Plastocene’ collection, first shown at the NGV Triennial in December 2020. All photography courtesy Porky Hefer
(Image credit: Tom Ross)

As if the plastic detritus of our hyper-consumerist culture currently littering the oceans wasn’t scary enough, South African designer Porky Hefer has imagined five giant sea monsters, all made of recycled material, for a large-scale installation commissioned by Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria for the NGV Triennial, and co-produced by Cape Town’s Southern Guild gallery. 

While his previous designs – whimsical hanging seats and an award-winning private house in Namibia – were often based on birds’ nests, Hefer’s mutant species explore the idea of a post-human world where plastic is so dominant, it has become an integral part of some animals’ DNA. In his dystopian vision, influenced by National Geographic magazine’s ‘Planet or Plastic?’ issue, species have begun to transmutate, adapting to the endless abundance of plastics and pollutants flooding into nature, in a new stage of the evolutionary process.  

‘Plastocene – Marine Mutants from a Disposable World’ by Porky Hefer

A white hanging sculpture by Porky Hefer representing a sea animal shaped like a takeaway coffee cup

Flat White

(Image credit: Tom Ross)

Charming at first sight, Hefer’s creatures are less so on closer inspection: a giant octopus (at 14m wide and 3.6m tall, Hefer's largest piece to date) is made from thousands of felt cigarette butts; a cute multicoloured fish turns out to be built out of ghost nets and marine rope; and a blowfish’s spikes are revealed as 120 crocheted straws. Equally striking are Flat White, a reminder of the waste generated by takeaway food packaging, and Q-Tip, a part-earbud, part-hammerhead shark creature. 

Large sea creature by Porky Hefer made of rope in green and yellow stripes

Netfeesh, made of leftovers from rope manufacturing

(Image credit: Tom Ross)

All the artworks were made in collaboration with a community of South African artisans, including over 80 crafters across six studios: Ronel Jordaan Textiles, Streetwires, Mielie, Wolf & Maiden Creative Studio, M Clothing and Leon at CXIXX, with African Karakul wool sponsored by Jonay Wool Carding. The entire project was co-produced by Southern Guild and will now form part of NGV’s permanent collection.

It’s a resounding success in terms of impactful art, but let’s hope this vision of a toxic future never becomes a reality.

Large sea creature by Porky Hefer with blue body and white oversized earbuds

Q-Tip: a part-earbud, part-hammerhead shark creature

(Image credit: Tom Ross)

Installation view of porky Hefer's Plastocene

An installation view at Melbourne's NGV

(Image credit: Tom Ross)

A large scale fish by Porky Hefer made of enlarged straws in white and red


(Image credit: Tom Ross)

Side view of Flat White by Porky Hefer, a fish shaped like a coffee cup

Side view of Flat White

(Image credit: Tom Ross)

Detail view of Flat White

Detail of Flat White

(Image credit: Tom Ross)

A sculpture of a fish with a large open mouth and two spiky teeth, made by Porky Hefer for his Plastocene project


(Image credit: Tom Ross)



The Wallpaper* Design Awards 2022 feature in the February 2022 issue of Wallpaper*. Subscribe today!

Léa Teuscher is a Sub-Editor at Wallpaper*. A former travel writer and production editor, she joined the magazine over a decade ago, and has been sprucing up copy and attempting to write clever headlines ever since. Having spent her childhood hopping between continents and cultures, she’s a fan of all things travel, art and architecture. She has written three Wallpaper* City Guides on Geneva, Strasbourg and Basel.

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