Earlier this year, TED headed out on a worldwide Talent Search through 14 cities on six continents — Amsterdam, Bangalore, Doha, Johannesburg, London, Nairobi, New York, São Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney, Tokyo, Tunis and Vancouver — to bring you fresh perspectives for TED2013. Along the way, we couldn’t help but notice how many of the 293 speakers shared their inspired ways of using surprising materials to create art as well as everyday, functional items. Here, a playlist of talks from the artists and tinkers thinking outside the box when it comes to choosing their materials.
Alana Kakoyiannis: How to turn bootleg videotapes into fuel
Alanna Kakoyiannis has an interesting idea for what to do with your old videotapes, now that you’ve gotten rid of your VHS player. While this artist started out using a found stockpile of tapes for art installations, she soon discovered that they could be used to make both cement and fuel.
Gwon Osang: Making life-size sculptures out of photos
Artist Gwon Osang has shown his work around the globe, creating projects for Fendi and Nike, as well as collaborating on a record cover for the band Keane. In this talk, he shares his enormous sculptures — and how they are created out of hundreds of photographs.
Yoichi Ochiai: The world’s thinnest screen
User interface designer Yoichi Ochai is working hard to bring us a screen so thin it can be pulled between your fingers. The material allowing him to do this — bubbles. Here, he describes the technology and what it could be used for.
Freeman Murray: Beautiful, affordable architecture from pallet racks
Warehouse shelving — called pallet racks — can be used to build buildings, says architect Freeman Murray. In this talk, he describes his work building community centers from the unusual material, which makes structures both easy to erect and take down.
Nikhilesh Das: Cleaning up oil spills — with hair, feathers and sawdust
Rural innovator Nikhilesh Das had a fascinating a-ha moment whilst remembering his mother brushing oil into his hair to tame it: could human hair clean up oil spills? The answer is ‘yes.’
Jonas Merian: My “upcycled” furniture
With a background in prosthetics, Jonas Merian decided to make a big change and became a furniture designer. But rather than design with new materials, he looked to reclaim bricks from destroyed houses and repurpose discarded furniture in order to create something new.
Lee Jang Sub: The natural beauty of street maps
Artist Lee Jang Sub’s work may look like sketches of flowers and trees. But they are actually created from street maps of major cities like Seoul, Paris, Rome, Moscow and Tokyo, which naturally follow many of the same design rules.
Mansukhbhai Prajapati: Building modern technology — with clay
Originally trained as a tile manufacturer, Mansukhbhai Prajapati started crafting pots and pans out of clay. But soon he had an idea — could he make modern kitchen appliances, like water filters and even a refrigerator, out of clay too?
Max Zorn: The city is my canvas, packing tape my medium
Street artist Max Zorn doesn’t bother with spray paint. He creates public art using brown translucent packing tape.
Keehyun Ahn: A building from five shipping containers
Shipping container architecture is growing more and more popular in the United States. In this talk, Keehyun Ahn talks about his work building with the material in Korea, showing how five containers can become a full structure.
Liu Bolin: Painting myself invisible
In his critique of China’s rising consumer culture, Liu Bolin uses an unusual material to create art — his body. Bolin paints himself into a background, making himself dissolve into it.
Bob Waardenburg: Turning paper clips and matchsticks into spectacular “carpets”
Artist Bob Waardenburg reached into his kitchen junk drawer for inspiration to create unusual carpets. In this talk, he shares his work made from both paper clips and matches.
Tuur Van Balen: How to turn pigeon poop into soap
Pigeons are often referred to as the “rats of the sky.” Designer and synthetic biologist Tuur Van Balen has a radical idea for getting the birds a cleaner reputation—hacking bacteria in order to make them literally poop soap. Here, he demonstrates.
Phil Hansen: The art of the imperfect
Artist Phil Hansen felt constrained by making art with pens and brushes in art school. Now, he’s broadened his view — using his torso, x-rays, a tricycle, even a banana to create art.