After reading this article, I dug up my city’s solid waste management plan a.k.a. SWaMP to reread this chapter and refer to the map below. More to come. Consider this a heads up, trashies. I may wonk out on you for a post or few.
Archive for July, 2011
I met artist Tony Do at a picnic this weekend where we discussed, at length, crunchy rice dishes from our respective cultures (yum and yum) and, briefly, garbage and art (though never garbage art). It wasn’t until emailing after the fact that I discovered Tony himself is a trash artist, as evidenced by this conceptual upcycling of Douglas Huebler‘s famous piece.
Here’s what Tony has to say for himself:
The first generation of conceptual artists like Huebler attempted to de-materialize the art object by displacing it into language. One of the most important consequences of this form of production was the disruption of the process of exchange by which art becomes a commodity, and therefore the process through which art constitutes cultural hegemony. However, for various reasons the displacement of objecthood could not be sustained, resulting in the reintegration of materiality and the transformation of conceptual art into “post conceptual” art. This is where we are today. My intervention into Huebler’s seminal piece is a critique of his desire for pure objectivity (I argue that his displacement of the object is made possible through the sacrifice of subjectivity), and at the same time is a recuperation of his critical method. Through a gesture that is basically a form of recycling, my version becomes a critique of all forms of garbage–both material and conceptual art and as well as non art.
Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868) faced many of the same energy and environmental resource problems that the Western world faces today—namely shit running out fast.
I bring this up because a friend recently lent me an interesting book on the topic, Azby Brown‘s Just Enough: Lessons in Green Living from Traditional Japan. Using emblematic stories (“They are not fables. They are depictions of vanished ways of life told from the point of view of a contemporary observer, based on extensive research and presented as narrative), Brown lays out the life of the farmer, carpenter and samurai illustrated with hand-sketched diagrams of the design and tools employed by each to live as efficiently as possible.
Each of the book’s three parts begins with a description of a particular category of citizen’s life during the period in question followed by these whimsically mapped out drawings, which in turn precede short bulleted chapters on what lessons we modern folk can extract, update and apply to our present day communities. Suggestions range from plant a garden to my personal favorite: “Build homes that are inspirational.”
It’s an entertaining approach to the potentially dry topic of conservation, with the soothing message just enough repeated throughout. Garbage per se comes up infrequently because the Edo days produced little waste and found new uses for byproducts. The best illustration in the book is a centerfold spread of rice production, mapping how every part of the crop is named and used including hulls upcycled into “footwear, hats, aprons, mats, bags, rope, brush and many others!!” (Exclamation points are ok if handwritten next to little pictures of rice stalks.)
For those more digital than literary, Brown taped a talk on the Edo approach at TEDxTokyo. Interestingly, it’s pretty dull. The spirit of the book is hearkening back to a simpler time, which somehow doesn’t translate well to PowerPoint. So, if you’re interested, I recommend you get your hands, literally, on a hardcover copy and flip through the pictures.
Oh the hazards of composting. The raccoons are out in Richmond, Canada, attacking people and their pets. Especially the pets. The Vancouver Sun reports:
One theory is the recent advent of the city’s Green Can program, which encourages residents to recycle food scraps — a common source of food for raccoons.
Some believe the scraps are more accessible in the new Green Cans and more odorous than they were previously in regular garbage cans, providing a greater attraction for the raccoons.
Once when I was a kid there were rumors of a rabid raccoon in our neighborhood. My mother tried to keep us from going out on our own and walked around everywhere with a softball bat. More recently, I was walking home in Brooklyn one night and saw a raccoon run down the steps into a Subway station. A train must have just arrived because it came running out a few seconds later, scared off by the small crowd of exiting passengers. I’d hate to be alone on the platform if it ever tried again!
I often wish my city collected food waste for composting. Today is not one of those times.
Last night I stopped by the bank to deposit some checks and was surprised to find all the paper slip slots empty.
Turns out Citibank now lets you stick checks directly into ATM machines without the wasteful and outdated ritual of filling out a deposit slip, adding up the total and sealing them in envelopes. And there you have it, the last bit of math my life required I do all by myself, done.