Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Trash-Worship Synthesis

This is a remarkable synthesis of two dominant trends in art and politics. The modern artists' worship of trash, decay, and degradation meets the environmentalists' obsessive hoarding of garbage (an activity they call "recycling") in a San Francisco program that attempts to turn the city dump into an "art gallery." The common thread is philosophical nihilism: the worship of non-values.

"A Makeover for Trash; Now It's Art," Patricia Leigh Brown, New York Times, 1/26/05

"It was the art opening of the season, and the cognoscenti gathered to sip chardonnay and wax poetic about the work on display at one of the city's most prestigious galleries: the dump. 'It's very textural, very architectonic,' said Hector Dio Mendoza, a sculptor from San Jose, speaking of his 15-foot plastic foam tree, a work of haunting, austere beauty representative of what might be called the Trash Can School. 'I love the way light reflects off the Styrofoam.'...

"Founded in 1990 by a local artist and administered by Norcal Waste Systems, the company that picks up and recycles San Francisco's garbage, the program has become a bona fide phenomenon here. It is deeply expressive of a place where recycling is practically a religion and personal expression and environmental politics are urban dogma....

The promotion of garbage as a 'visual resource' is meant to inspire the public to be less wasteful and to help the city achieve a recycling goal of 75 percent by 2010."