Archive for May, 2011

Max Liboiron

Monday, May 30, 2011

There’s a fantastic guest post up on Discard Studies, a site run by NYC anthropologist in residence Dr. Robin Nagle. The blog’s tagline is “exploring throw-away culture” and the latest post by artist and PhD candidate Max Liboiron does just that in an essay that asks “Humans: Inherently wasteful, or good sterards? (And, why this question misses the point).” Read it. Then spend some time with Liboiron’s Web site perusing her past projects. Amazing stuff.

Detail of one of Liboiron's landscapes made of tea bags

The Daily Ocean at sea

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sara Bayles‘ blog The Daily Ocean chronicles trash she finds on the beach every day for a year. Recently, she and her husband took nine weeks to join a sea expedition to the Great Pacific Garden Patch. She’s now posting details of the trip and photos in a series of posts before returning to the regularly scheduled program.

Introspective Trash

Friday, May 27, 2011

William Rathje at the University of Arizona founded the sociological discipline of garbology, which Wikipedia defines as follows:

[T]he study of (mostly modern) refuse and trash. As an academic discipline it was pioneered at the University of Arizona and long directed by William Rathje. The project started in 1973, originating from an idea of two students for a class project.It is a major source of information on the nature and changing patterns in modern refuse, and thereby, human society.

Or, as a New York Times headline on the topic put it: We Are What We Throw Away.

Recently, I’ve come across three examples (which, by the laws of lazy journalism = a trend) of personal studies in garbology.

Mac Premo‘s The Dumpster Project, covered here before, documents all the things the artist had stockpiled in his old studio before losing that space. Premo is now cataloging the items, some intensely personal (an early pair of his daughter’s shoes, the invitation to an old girlfriend’s party to christen her wheelchair), some just neat things he collected over the years (Persian smokes pictured here). Premo hopes to procure a dumpster and display all the documented stuff in said dumpster. The piece will either tour as an art exhibit or be left out for collection. Or both.

Mac Premo's The Dumpster Project

Writer Chappell Ellison is throwing away her stuff in an effort to live with less. Unconsumption covered her project, which consists of a blog where she posts photos of things she is throwing away, sometimes alongside their stories. The first person to comment on each item gets to keep it.

Chappell Ellison's Everything Must Go project

Writer Porochista Khakpour is selling relics of her past and each piece comes with a story on a tumblelog called One Woman’s Trash. “Trying to be people I was not was a theme of my 20s,” begins a post about a silk romper. The microblog is a for-profit venture presented as more stoop sale than art project, but it’s a creative exercise in garbology nonetheless.

Porochista Khakpour's One Woman's Trash

I once threw away all my journals. It was a rash decision I frequently question today. Somehow reading entries on these three sites picks at that scab. What I love about all of these efforts is the thought put into our collecting of things, the stories each item acquires — making it harder and harder to part with over time — and the discipline of each artist to actually get rid of it.

Garbage Revolution

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In case you missed it, Uma Viswanathan had a lovely HuffPo piece last week on a youth program composting organic food waste in Haiti. It’s called the Nouvelle Vie Haiti Youth Corps, a project of the International Association of Human Values.

I don’t know anything about this group, but a glance at their philosophy, here, makes me curious to dig deeper.

This weekend my aunt and younger cousins told me they are planning a trip to Haiti to volunteer at an orphanage. They are a service-oriented family and my aunt was interested in taking her daughters to a developing country for the first time. It was hard, my aunt said, to find a nonreligious volunteer program.

I look forward to hearing about their experience. And to learning more about Nouvelle Vie Haiti’s work on sanitation and other development projects.

Yucca Mountain

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Nuclear waste. It’s the most controversial kind of trash. Here in the U.S. our government has been talking about different ways to bury nuclear waste for years. Nearly a decade ago, Congress passed a law stating we needed a permanent underground storage facility by the mid-1990’s and later named Yucca Mountain, outside of Vegas, as the chosen spot.

Yucca Mountain

Lately though, the government has been rethinking that decision. For one thing, Japan’s nuclear disaster proved worrisome, causing experts to rethink the whole idea of storing toxic waste in pools.

But Yucca Mountain was the subject of debate long before the earthquake in Japan. It’s a bit of a messy fight to follow. I didn’t quite understand all the pieces until I read this handy list of FAQs published by Reuters. In a nutshell, people in Nevada have long been pissed about the choice of where to put America’s nuclear waste, President Obama campaigned on the promise to block the facility from being built, his administration did indeed block the Yucca Mountain site, inspiring the Government Accountability Office to prepare and release a report stating that politics rather than technical or safety concerns drove the decision.

The report also pointed out that since 1983 the government has spent $15 billion assessing Yucca Mountain, $9.5 billion of which was collected via extra charges on Americans’ electric bills.

We’ll have to wait until early next year to find out what an appointed Blue Ribbon commission suggests we do instead. Our options include finding a new place to dig a hole, looking to the French model of recycling nuclear waste or paying a country like Mongolia to deal with it for us. One would hope the proposed plan includes ideas on creating less nuclear waste in the first place.

Euro e-waste ends up in West Africa

Monday, May 16, 2011

BBC’s Panorama reported this excellent piece on electronic waste from the UK illegally dumped in West African countries like Ghana. (Thanks for the tip, Nic!)


The end section on taking responsibility hits the nail on the head, pointing out that while African governments legislating restrictions is one piece of the puzzle, the key piece is holding those at the source of the e-waste responsible in places like the UK.

You may recall that discovering that his e-waste ended up in Ghana was part of Swedish journalist Mattias Hagberg’s motivations in writing his book Skräp. Here’s a link to Vic’s interview with Hagberg and to a photo slideshow published later by a Swedish paper.

The Catch

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Snapper, lobster, my dad's hand

Which is a better motivator to get people to change their behavior: fines or incentives? The EU banks on incentives.

Problem: fishermen working EU waters toss back up to two-thirds of what they pull out of the ocean—over 100 million tons of edible fish per year—because the fish are either already dead or they want to make room for more valuable ones.

Solution: The EU’s first thought was to ban this practice and instate fines for dumping dead fish in the ocean. Unsurprisingly, this plan was unpopular with fishermen. Plan B is a new project to pay fishermen for the plastic debris they bring back. The EU will pay to subsidize this program until it takes off, after which the idea is that the sale of recyclable plastics will underwrite the initiative. Think it will work?

Check out Triple Pundit‘s excellent piece on the topic.

via GOOD, thanks for the tip, Dan!

Decorative Dumpster Day Roundup

Monday, May 2, 2011

DDD 2011

So, to recap:

Thanks to all the DDD posters and to unconsumption and Art for Housewives for celebrating with us!

Decorative Dumpster Day #2: Mac Premo’s Dumpster Project

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Remember the dumpster video I shared a couple weeks back? (Thanks, Rebecca for sending this my way).

Well, I was so intrigued by The Dumpster Project that I looked the artist and asked for an interview. It turns out his studio is just around the corner from global headquarters in Brooklyn. More to come from that conversation (I am en route to Peru today and can’t access my notes).

In the meantime, track The Dumpster Project online. Displaced from his studio, artist Mac Premo decided to catalog and meticulously curate an autobiographical dumpster encompassing the myriad sentimental objects he has collected over his lifetime as a collage artist, animator, commercial director, carpenter, father and all-around pack rat.

Examples of objects to be dumpstered include:

One of his daughter Frieda's first shoes

And a bandage from the time he tore off a fingernail.

Premo plans to construct his dumpster for optimal public viewing and is currently documenting each piece to go in it on the blog. The piece will either tour the country or be left out for trash collection. Regardless of what the future holds, we LOVE this project at and will be tracking its progress regularly. To see Premo’s autobiographical collection of objects, New Yorkers can stop by during the annual Atlantic Avenue Art Walk, June 4 and 5.

Happy Decorative Dumpster Day, trashies!

Decorative Dumpster Day: #1 Dumpster Bienniel

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Today is Decorative Dumpster Day—a day to examine the sometimes elaborate containers we use to store our waste—hosted by Olympia Dumpster Divers, Visible Trash and

Other participating blogs this year include Brooklyn Spaces, unconsumption, Lady Bug Circus, La Joie de Vivre, Beth Evans-Ramos, and Art for Housewives. Check them out!


There are just too many decorative dumpsters to contain to a single post, so is celebrating #DDD2011 in a couple installments. #1 is The Dumpster Biennale, an exhibition of customized wooden dumpsters in Australia. The show was part of the Street Dreams Urban Art Festival not this year, but last.

Dumpster Biennale

The dumpsters were little. And adorable. And a perfect fit for #DDD201. Check out this collection of photos on Facebook, and these images here on Flickr via witness 1.

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