SIGN IN      

Ecological entrepreneurship through art in Mongolia 

August 24, 2017


Cover art Samantha Gonzales

Suspended from a six‑meter ceiling inside Mongolian Modern Art Gallery’s main hall are hundreds of reused plastic bottles mimicking an underwater vertical tube that seemingly engulfs its visitors. “Traces of Anthropocene or Life?” is this year’s highlight for Ulaanbaatar International Media Arts Festival under the theme of “Traces.” The installation, which received great response from festival guests and attendees, is one of the 15 other international works of varying media invited by the Arts Council of Mongolia.

Art Samantha Gonzales


The installation is an amalgam of artistic expression, over‑consumption, and human behavior. It aims to feature the degrading health of marine biodiversity and the global collapse of coral reef systems in a country that is landlocked between two world powers. “Traces of Anthropocene or Life?” is beyond a single artist’s work, it is a community effort, with more than two months in preparation and more than five days of actual installation. It involved youth volunteers, Mongolia’s leading water‑bottling company, and other creatives who contribute to one shared narrative—a new perspective on the passive ecological footprint that our consumptions leave behind. Once within the installation’s vertical tube, the installation creates a feeling of mystery on what our future will be if we continue our current destructive human activities, overconsumption, and the kind of traces we will leave behind.


According to a Forbes article by Trevor Nace last July 26, the world has reached the purchase level of 1,000,000 plastic bottles every minute—91% of which are unrecycled. Through the partnership with a local plastic‑bottling company, the installation gives a clear signal that businesses have their specific role in environmental messaging and manufacturing.

Enterprises that constantly deploy new technological solutions in manufacturing and product innovation allow us to achieve the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Many businesses explore the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to better leverage towards sustainable development. One clear example is the revolutionary invention of social entrepreneur Sugianto Tandio. His business model promotes zero tolerance for plastic that overstays its useful life cycle. In addition, he has also invented a type of biodegradable plastic made entirely of taro root. Innovative businesses like this replace traditional plastics with environmentally-sound alternatives, while providing income to, say, cassava farmers from fair trade.


As trace is a vital medium of past, present and the future, our ecological footprint over the last decades has become more environmentally disastrous rather than beneficial. Dirty energy sources and their by‑products consciously left behind by industries are the largest contributors to the degrading climatic conditions. The festival’s theme “Traces” asks us this generation’s new breed of entrepreneurs are aware of their passive footprints.

A report by The Guardian early this February states that renewable energy is eventually going to make up nine‑tenths of new energy sources that enter Europe’s electricity grid. This rapid shift away from fossil fuels, coupled with additional green policies, signal the commitment of industries towards sustainable and clean energy sourcing.

As innovations flood the market and entrepreneurs take advantage of various scientific advancements, the “Traces of Anthropocene or Life?” installation brings ecological and artistic dimensions to the festival. More importantly, this year’s festival strongly emphasises and provides a platform for a concerted action on environmental messaging from businesses, the artists, civil society, and several other stakeholders. 

Francis Sollano is an artist and social entrepreneur, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and co‑convenor of the Youth for a Livable Cebu, or YLC. He is also the recipient of the United Nations Environmental Programme Fellowship Award and was a cultural leader at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2016.