Trash Transformation

Trash Transformation, 2013
Mixed media trash
Fleming Museum, Burlington, VT
Trash Transformation is a participatory art piece commissioned by the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont for its High Trash exhibition.

There are two rules of interaction for the piece:
1. You can touch, move, and rebuild any part of the model city. Take a photograph of what you’ve created and upload to so we can watch the evolution of the model over time.

2. You can take anything away from the model if you replace it with something beneficial to the city. Take a photograph of what you’ve left behind and upload to

In every other installation that used waste to model an economy through simple rules of interaction, the fact that pieces were made of trash was the least interesting aspect of the participation. People seem nonplussed, and carried on as if the art was made of any other material. Trash Transformation is the only installation in six years of making art from waste where the public treated the art like trash. About a quarter of the art was destroyed by being stepped on. Though the piece was eventually installed so that all objects were coordinated in a single “city,” the next day the objects were far flung and disorder. Also unique to Trash Transformation is that people did not always followed the rules. People took things without leaving things behind, and people did not always take photographs. When people did leave something behind, they often reached into their pockets for their part of the exchange, trading art for trash. The rules said to exchange art for something that would benefit the city, but this happened rarely according to the photographs submitted. In most photographed cases, when people made forays into organizing the mess into some sort of urban plan, they did so on a small, individual scale. This isn’t to say that every participant wantonly destroyed or abused the art, but that the overall gestalt was unlike any other collection of behaviors portrayed in every other installation of the same kind.

What accounts for this difference, given that the rules of interaction are nearly identical to other installations? Some of the photos that were taken are below, along with efforts to turn the tide of trashing the exhibit that proved generally unsuccessful. Trash Transformation is the only installation of Liboiron’s body of work within an exhibit about trash. Perhaps the frame of waste overrode the usual variety of interactions participants have used in other works, and introduced new, trashy, ones.

All participant-submitted images, in order of submission, can be found here.

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