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.

The Potato is Out of the Bag

potato bag.jpg

This residency has welcomed me by beginning with many tours of city facilities and many handshakes of people all over New Westminster. After this initial warm and slightly overwhelming welcoming I am starting to settle into the process of making...or rather deconstructing.

In order to create the art work I have in mind out of trash it must first be re-imagined, sorted through, collected, and then (somewhat painstakingly) processed into a new art-material resource. For me this process looks like a weekly trip to the New West Recycling Depot where I sift through the bin of soft plastic bags in search of packaging with printed text. I grab as much of this stuff as I can into a bag (though I have already learned through error not to bring home any smelly food packaging) and then I bring it to the Engineering Operations yard, where I sit at a desk (that is shared with other nice city operations people who come and go) and cut up the packaging into individual words. One thing I have learned from Dan, the super helpful Recycling Depot manager, is that in New West they recycle soft plastic bags, but the general rule to distinguish the recyclable ones from the non-recyclables is "if you can put your thumb through it" then it is probably recyclable. The packaging I find in this bin that has the most text on it is actually the non-recyclable kind- it is a thicker type of plastic. So I kind of like the idea that I'm (in a tiny way) helping sort out the recycling bin, and that I'm reusing this material that others were hoping to recycle but that cannot be recycled.

While cutting up packaging I think of all the ways it could be organized. Many of the words are repetitive, many are similar colors, shapes and sizes. I put logos in their own bag, and Canadian flag emblems in another, and the word "facts" in another for specific projects. But most words get put into the same bag, with the primary goal in these first couple months being to collect as many cut-up words as I can. Then I will have a pile of source material to make artwork from. I think of this collection as being a scrambled-dictionary-grab-bag where any words can be drawn from to create new sentences, poetry, and meaningful inspiration to visual art pieces.

I have so many ideas, and there are so many inspiring opportunities available to me to do during this residency. I am beginning by starting some initial experimental projects, and seeing where these lead my thoughts and further experiments. More on that to come soon.

potato bag cut up.jpg



Molly Marineau