Trash is in the eye of the beholder

In honor of  National Zero Waste Week I would like to share two stories of men who created beautiful things out of trash.

Competing against 282 artists to win the Waikato Museum Contemporary Art Award in New Zealand, Dane Mitchell walked away with a $15,000 prize money.  What exactly was his masterpiece? Mitchell collected discarded packaging materials from other artists and submitted it as his work of art. (see the picture below)

Photo: Waikato Museum

Some of the other artists in the competition were outraged because they did not see the collecting of trash as an artistic pursuit.  According to one of the competitors, Mark Hayes, "Contemporary art needs to say something to you and make you think.  I am sorry but I just cannot see the 'clever' and 'cheeky' in the winning sculpture."

Art, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder, or at least that of the judges. To defend her decision in determining the winner, Judge Charlotte Haddleston claimed, "It is the packing material that’s left over from the other artists, the other finalists, and as it happens it has their names on it. And I think that kind of speaks, in some ways, to the hopes and aspirations of everybody including Dane and the finalists and kind of brings them all together in one work."

Dane is not the first to create works of art out of trash. Weburbanist and Treehuggers provides remarkable pictures made out of trash.

Trash, like art, tells a story. In this instance, it provided a narrative thread stitching together the artists' shed packaging into a collective attitude towards creation. In our own lives, our individual attitudes towards stuff--its acquisition and its shedding--are reflected in the trash we generate.

Moving on to a different case study, New York Times posted a story of Dan Phillips, a man of many talents has recently took upon a new project, called Phoenix Commotion.  The mission of Phoenix Commotion is to build low income housing from trash.  In this case, detritus like samples from a frame store becomes part of that most valued American dream...home ownership.

So far, Mr. Phillips has constructed 14 homes on his purchased lots.  Mr. Phillips was "disturbed by the irony of landfills choked with building materials and yet a lack of affordable housing. To him, almost anything discarded and durable is potential building material."  His project seems to fit in perfectly with New Dream's cause to live sustainably.

Sadly, many of his houses have been foreclosed.  Yet, he remains dedicated to his project. "Attractive, affordable housing is possible and I’m out to prove it."  He also gains support from members within his community. He has changed the way some people view trash.  For example, Esther Herklotz, superintendent of solid waste, has recycled most of her life but the thought of creating houses out of recycled items never crossed her mind.  City officials have contacted warehouses to send recyclable materials to Mr. Phillips house rather than dumping them onto the landfill.

Click on this link for a slideshow of recycled homes and more information on Phoenix Commotion.

Tags: Trash

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