I orchestrated Out of Sorts to explore cycles of accumulation and release in our physical and emotional landscapes. The Fall 2017 installation at SPEEDWELL Projects in Portland, ME., invited visitors to consider individual and collective consumption as manifest in five mini-bales of recyclable materials that non-profit solid waste manager, ecomaine compressed and loaned for the exhibition. I am grateful to the Kismet Foundation for connecting me with Yarmouth, ME., Public Works Director, Erik Street, who allowed me to access and bring students to the local Transfer Station, suggesting I tour ecomaine, where staff facilitated my impractical initiative to press pause on the recycling process. The resultant installation allowed viewers to contemplate their own patterns of consumption; the various conduits for release available to us; and the personal, cultural and global implications of material excess and disposability.
To facilitate such reflections, Out of Sorts included contemplation benches fabricated by Benjamin Spalding from wood we salvaged together and upholstered by Amy Emmons with fabric printed with my photographs of bales of recycling and municipal woodpiles. Visitors sat on five plushly cushioned benches and registered the visual, visceral, and psychological impact of the simultaneously minimalist and maximalist monuments to communal efforts to keep things out of the landfill that were embodied by the bales of metal, paper, and newspaper. Materially manifest in the strata of these intimate yet anonymous commodities was evidence of how we eat, drink, work, play, and clean, and how much attention we pay to discarding things responsibly.
Also on view were photographs I took of our trash being incinerated and our recycling being sorted both mechanically and by hand in hopes of humanizing the process and encouraging people to consider that when we place something in a recycling bin we are in direct physical dialogue with workers who sort, remove contaminants from, and bale recyclable materials. Those images were printed on assorted fabrics and presented draped on pegs to require viewers to engage with them actively rather than passively to see each image. This series of wearable and wall-able fabric works is entitled “Complicity.” Viewers could drape themselves in the prints on fabric, which had the look and feel of scarves, reflecting the way we are immersed in, i.e., “up to here,” in what we discard. As ecomaine’s Environmental Educator, Katrina Venhuizen states, “there is no such thing as [throwing things] ‘away’.” The boomerang effect is here, is now, and is pressing on the planet in an unprecedented manner.