Saturday, March 31, 2007

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Three more days

4 in household

There are three more days until this experiment at OPENSOURCE is done. As a family, we will step outside the game rules and go back to whatever become normal after seriously altering our shopping, eating, cleaning, and to some degree thinking patterns. So now we get to see what sticks. Will we keep any of the patterns that allow for reduction or will be just go right back to easy living? I am going to keep making paper. Paper, it turns out, is very slow to biodegrade and comprises a huge amount of land fill. So, if you want a piece of paper, let me know. I have more card stock than I know what to do with.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

180 million bags

So, I just learned that San Francisco has banned plastic bags from major supermarkets and pharmacies. This is great news. They are going to replace petroleum based bags with biodegradable plastic and paper. The most amazing tidbit in the article is that the grocers association let lit slip that they use 180 million plastic bags a year. Wow. This is just in America. Grocery stores have 6 months to comply and pharmacies have a year. So why does it take a year to put different bags by the check out counters?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

paper making

4 in household

Even though I do not have to wrap my paper, I still spend quite a bit of time processing it. Going through the junk mail becomes an exercise in paper ripping. Today I filled my paper slop bucket with junk mail and tomorrow it will be a beautiful fresh batch of homemade paper. Each piece, approximately 30'x24', is its own mini history. Not only is the color affected by the passive and random assortment of the collection, but the weather changes the texture. Last week, I made three sheets of paper and it rained during the night. One side is smooth while the other looks like a small topographical map of a mountain range. I have rain textured paper.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Philly Museum

1 in household

I just got home from a four day visit to Philadelphia. On a lovely but wet afternoon the family took a stroll along the river to the Museum. Having just read Walter Benjamen, I was acutely aware of the idea that all object housed in a collection represent a conquest or victory. All conquests suggest brutality. But is was in the cafe that the brutality really hit me. I can look at art for a good solid hour before I need a coffee break. I had my handy cup with me, but once we got to the cafe the family was starved. The food was fresh and good, a nice salad bar with grilled veggie, feta, and olives. The main dishes were cooked on the spot. The problem was the souvenirs. Everything was served on Styrofoam with plastic cutlery and paper napkins. The water, the coffee, juices, sodas, all had throw away cups. I sat and watch a steady line of folks rack up more souvenirs in 25 minutes than our entire family of five in two weeks. Besides the cooks and cashiers, the only other full time staff in the room were two and sometimes three trash collectors making sure that the 6 thrash cans never overflowed. This institution is certainly making some lasting imprint on human culture, I'm just not sure its the one they intended. This trip, which shook me out of my active collection mode and forced me back into the world of convenience, was really depressing.

Friday, March 23, 2007

bodily waste

Lori asked me why the trash ended up looking so neat and why wasn't it as gross and disgusting as the problems garbage poses. As she said, "Where is the shit in all of this?" She was even more upset when I told her bodily waste was excluded from the project. She felt by wrapping the trash in the newspaper, I was supporting the common trick of visually masking problems so people didn't have to deal with them.

I had about 5 months to think about visually displaying the trash for this one month project. For the year long project all the collected souvenirs will be re-used as art materials. I am particularly interested to see how a variety of artist choose to display and use their souvenirs. In the end, choices, even for projects that mix art and life, come down to aesthetic decisions on the part of the artist. My choice to wrap each piece of trash was very conscious. If I had just displayed the objects, brand, utility, and lifestyle would have been the primary visual codes. Not knowing what is displayed, I hope, brings the viewer to evaluate amounts, rather than specific lifestyle choices. I hope this masking raises more questions, like Lori's, than a direct display.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

1 in household
I am still amazed by the souvenirs I saved from having a hankie and a cup. While I was in Kentucky for four days I saved 30+ cups and 40+ paper towels. While away, I threw away one really messy paper plate with greasy tomato sauce and some fruit skins. I brought home, one Styrofoam bowl I took from the breakfast room without even thinking about it, (it was a pre-coffee choice) two napkins that came with my silverware at restaurants, one single sized peanut butter cuplette, and two straws.
While I was at home alone for two days, my compostable and hard souvenirs dropped to almost nothing. I did eat out at least one meal a day and one fine morning my friend Jennifer Lapham made me eggs which tasted even better because of the great stories that flow so easily from the four year old mind of Zeek. All of what you see from this picture was created in the small kitchenette in my studio. Bringing home coffee grinds to photograph is an odd experience.
I am now in Philly and the stress of very nearly missing my plane sent me off the souvenir wagon. While in the Detroit airport I created as much garbage as I did in four days in Louisville. Having re-established a home base, I went to a bakery this morning with my coffee cup in hand and I'm back in reduction mode. I am ever reminded that this project is about a vigilant level of conscious choices. One slip and BAM, I am loaded up with souvenirs.

Monday, March 19, 2007

1 in household

I have been asked more than once why I don't visualize the average trash usage for a family of five. It has even been suggested that we are odd candidates for this project since we already make an effort to reduce waste by recycling and composting (most of the time), as well as by adding labor to our daily activities such as washing our zip-lock baggies. I came to this project in two ways. First, by realizing many works I admire are by artists that engage in projects that address local needs. I began looking into the work of Dan Peterman. The idea of providing opportunities for social engagement by altering waste products seemed a natural marriage. Why not turn every abandoned and broken shopping cart into a place to sit in communities that are regularly denied park benches? Transforming discarded plastic into a 100 foot long picnic bench was an elegant transformation of waste into social opportunity.

It was around this time that I was making hundreds of rosettes out of plastic wrap. While making dinner I peeled the plastic-wrap off of a mushroom package and was about to throw it away when I realized I WAS THROWING AWAY THE VERY ART MATERIALS I NEEDED. This project was conceived in that moment. I wanted a model for artmaking that not only reduced the costs of materials for artists, but that set up a structure that strongly implicated the self in the choice of what materials we accumulate and throw away. This project highlights the consequences of every commercial action I make. I have to choose to accept or reject every piece of trash that goes through my house.

Idea: I think I can make rope from plastic. For the longer project, I can make a year long length of rope that will visualize my inability to control plastic waste. The passive collection of plastic is huge. I am currently wrapping more plastic windows from junk mail that any other single item. The paper from the envelopes is being made back into paper but the plastic windows I'm stuck with. Not only that, the New York Times comes in a lovely red plastic bag every morning.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

3 people in the household

I just got home and was amazed both at the incredible souvenir reduction and at the amount of souvenirs I needed to process. Tom made every reasonable effort to reduce while I was away and each days’ bag was remarkably small. Still, it took me five hours to sort out paper, wrap each souvenir in that days’ New York Times and hang the lovely little packages at OPENSOURCE. That was with the help and company of my friend Chantelle. One thing I like about this project is the notion that I have a time consequence for every souvenir. I went to dinner with Chantelle and I accidentally used a paper napkin. I will meet that napkin again today when I washed it and added it to my paper pulp. For hard goods I meet them again when I wrap them. By the time I am done wrapping an object, I love it. This becomes a fetish finish. I notice the serendipity of the newpaper pattern on the objects and admire every enticing graphic oddity that inevitably happens on the surface. I also remember how I acquired that object. In this sense, this collection is like every other, a trigger for past experience. These objects are in fact a collection of souvenirs.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

3 people in household

We seem to drink a lot of tea and, when I am home, a lot of coffee.

Friday, March 16, 2007

3 People in household

It is interesting to see Tom's photos of the compost. He does nothing to the grossness of the wet, the soggy and the decaying. The slime is left from the last batch and the next layer is added on top. I wipe the counter clean each time between photos and dry the counter too. I have been accused of over aestheticizing. Perhaps. But what is interesting is that no matter the project, aesthetics are primary.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

3 people in the household

Traveling during this project is quite hard. While I am exempt under the game rules from hauling my trash home, I am making every effort to NOT create unwanted souvenirs. I have my survival kit and plenty of time to embroider hankies during presentations. I have found that having a cup and a HAND hankie are the simplest and most souvenir saving devises in the kit. On occasion I deny myself some small desire in lieu of accepting a souvenir. I have yet to regret any cup of coffee I denied myself for not having my cup on hand.
Sometimes I think it must be hard to be married to an artist. I am currently away at the NCECA conference and Tom is very kindly documenting the daily compost by lining up the stale, the discarded, the moldy, and the soggy for pictures. Thank you.

People who hear about this project often assume I am recycling and only have to process and document what can't be composted or recycled. That is not the case. Recycling, while a positive step, is not a long-term solution to our environmental waste problems. The energy used and the pollution, particularly water pollution, from recycling almost counteract the benefits. Recycling and changing behavior to actually reduce consumption are two very different things. This project is about activating the decision making process to include the important consideration of trash at the moment of purchase. The notion of recycling allows for a certain amount of passivity.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Below is an installation shot from the Collected show at OPENSOURCE Art. While the compost is posted to this blog, all the souvenirs we create at home are wrapped in the New York Times and hung at OPENSOURCE. The five members of my family have reduced our souvenirs significantly. This project is working. Our thinking and behaviors have significantly changed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

4 in house hold

Today was a light trash day. It is still challenging to eat out. I went to lunch at the Coffee Hound in Normal, Illinois and my tahini came in a plastic container. It now houses the water I use to moisten my rubber rib in the studio. Still, there is the moment of panic when the plastic arrives.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

5 in household
5 guests

I went shopping at the Food Coop and finally felt more at ease in a grocery. First of all, I could talk about the project and the folks there were quite excited rather than looking at me as if I arrived from frightening planet. I has planned the shopping trip so I was armed with jars, zip lock baggies, and egg cartons. The amount of food in the store without packaging was quite high. Most of the items in the store are bulk. I realize buying in bulk is slightly cheating, as the good come to the store in a container of some sort. Since it the best option in terms of overall reduction, I am allowing this slight bit of fibbing on the stats.