Cultural Engineering Group

Services & Ressources en ingénierie culturelle

ANON Studios for Art & Ecology Call for Actions

There has been a lot of rhetoric recently about the importance of  action and awareness on recycling and sustainability issues. At the present time, we in this country produce garbage far in excess of anything else materially constructed here. Also, it is appropriate and useful to start considering people as a resource rather than consumers. These are spiritual societal issues that can begin to be cleaned up and healed through art processes and access to a life in art for all. Issues of waste management may be addressed through art processes. The spiritual hunger that is responsible for so much waste creation in the first place may be addressed through access to art and its realms for all.

Artists are masters of using whatever is available to them to create with. The late great Rauschenberg broke into his fame using garbage to make “combines” in the 60s. Many artists are still making work created from cast offs and discards .

Paper is a whopping 18% of waste streams, so why not have local paper making workshops? Mosaic walls made of discarded and broken glass and pottery? There are other possibilities using textiles and other waste goods. Some recycle centers do not take styrofoam, yet there are artists that feature this material in their constructions. It is a good time to expand the processes of art and design to serve purposes of of waste reclamation and transformation. The effectiveness of these alchemical processes will require a commitment of space and material acknowledgements of the value of these processes.

Of course, everyone reading this has a compost pile, at best for gardening and at least to cut down on reeking landfills, right?

I recently heard a horror story of a ship container of “donations” going to a third world country that ended up in a landfill, because it was garbage. We must develop a more “closed loop” method of dealing with our waste. Nature does not produce vast quantities of useless junk and neither should we. The alchemical processes of  working with garbage has morphed from an obscure cultural practice to a dire necessity. There are many methods and possibilities for this, using the tools and practices of art.

There are several models existing for starting to do this in this country and there are those working a changing cultural paradigm around the world.  I came across material this morning on the Cultural Engineering blog, that states the paradigm change from “competitive and globally controlled” to one of “more ecological-social-cultural engagements”, is  required concerning “shifts in policy” regarding “sustainability” and the “role of the arts”.

So what does this mean? It means a shift from consuming the cheap products made in third world factories that are literally work prisons operated by a competitive corporate elite whose operations are made possible and profitable by a corrupt and unworkable value system that values product and ignores spirit.  It means taking the one product we create an abundance of, garbage, and doing something different with it. It means the creation of new art actions that involve community and space and time allocations by the community to make this possible. It requires belief in something other than instant gratification and awareness of  good stewardship of our children’s future,  and a shift away from, or at least a balancing of, preoccupations with instant returns on material investments.

A new functional social architecture, that uses long term valuation structures, with concrete consideration of the fates of our children is essential. In part, this may be designed using the methods and practices of art to transform our vast quantities of garbage into something else.

Virginia Bryant*

*Virginia Bryant is an artist, designer and environmental advocate.

Her most recent design project is the ANON couture portfolio purse.

She can be reached here.


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