New Westminster Residency Blog

A collection of thoughts and photos to document the process of working as an artist in residence for the city of New Wesminster's solid waste and recycling program.

Month 1 (Struggles)

The point of this Artist Residency is to make art from solid waste and recycling. So far I have been collecting litter, garbage, and recycled materials with text on them and then sitting at a desk to tediously cut these things up in order to stockpile text as a resource for my art. I find myself getting frustrated at how slow it is to process all of this text; it is a month into the residency and I was hoping to have bags full of text to produce artwork from, but instead I have a few measly zip-locks full. The process of collecting and processing garbage is frustrating, but it has become just as meaningful (depending on my mood and patience throughout the work day.) I realize that this tedious effort and organization is just a metaphor for the whole idea of reusing/recycling resources on a global scale. Consumption of material goods and food is increasing all over the world and production to provide for this consumption is happening on vast scales every minute. I wonder how much text is being printed every second. Have you seen how fast a modern printer prints? Do you know how many lifetimes it would take me to cut all that up with a pair of scissors? So how can we possibly keep up with the organization of all of this waste produced from the habits of global consumption? The challenge is mind-bending. And, to add further complication, this organization of materials and resources is dependent on global economies and politics and is therefore ever-changing. Have you heard about China's recent ban on North American recyclables? Its a game-changer.

Anyways. The point is that even if everyone were an artist making stuff from garbage, it would not eliminate the fact that garbage is being produced way too fast and is not being dealt with sustainably enough. No one can solve this issue on their own- it is an issue of global scale, economics, and culture.  Art expresses and questions ideas of life. So then the act of being one person trying (and failing) to tackle "text-reuse" is art. To me, at least (but you can have your own opinion.) The fact that I am floundering and not making any significant impact as a sole individual does not make this project a failure so far- but rather it proves how much garbage we produce as a society and how we need to deal with our resources as a democratic team. That lesson is just as meaningful to me as the art pieces I will produce during this residency.  

Molly Marineau