Plastic Is Land, 2018 Digital photographs (in the laboratory) “This machine here is made from mother earth. It has a spirit of its own. This spirit probably hasn’t been recognized, and given the right respect that it should. When we work in a world of automated things, we forget that… everything is sacred, and that includes what we make.” Shawn Wilson, Research is Ceremony (2008) Plastic is Land are intimate plastic landscapes encountered during laboratory work. The photos show how plastic pollution, […]
Sea globes, 2013-2014 Ocean plastics, historical landfill, New York City kitschSmall globes: 3 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ diameter Large globe: 7 1/8″ x 6″ diamter This series of sea globes are genuine New York City souvenirs. The plastics came from the Hudson River in south Brooklyn, and the rocks are made of bituminous coal from in a landfill that closed in the 1930s at Deadhorse Bay, which now resides underwater at high tide, also in south Brooklyn. The snails are […]
Hudson River Plastics, 2015 Digital photographs These images are part of a larger series called Seeing Like a Scientist. In July 2015, the SEA Change expedition trawled the surface of the Hudson River. Between the Statue of Liberty and the Freedom Towers, this is what we found:
Every September in Newfoundland we have the food fishery, where every Newfoundlander can catch five fish per person, per day, for a week. People tend to catch cod. During the 2015 food fishery, my students and I gathered the guts of 205 fish from the food fishery to see what the cod had been eating. We were looking for plastic. What we found is pictured below, captured from the camera built into our laboratory microscope. Is it plastic, or not? Cod Objects (Ingestion […]
Dinner Plates (Northern Fulmar), 2015 Digital photographs These images are part of a larger series called Seeing Like a Scientist. When we are doing plastic ingestion studies in the laboratory, we dissect animal gastrointestinal tracts to see what they’ve eaten. We’re looking for plastics, but a lot of things look like plastics. These images were taken in the lab during a study of Northern Fulmar from the Labrador Sea. All of the hard and plastic-like objects are removed from the bird’s guts, put […]
Two main projects have emerged from my research and activism around plastic pollution: a manuscript, “Techniques of Definition: Defining Harm in Plastic Pollution,” and a citizen science project to investigate the state of ocean plastics in Newfoundland.
Categories: Current Projects
Disasters engender a range of scientific and technical activities, including research, data collection, policy interventions, technological and infrastructural development, expert-lay collaborations, and the reorganization of knowledge networks.
Critical Discard Studies is an emerging interdisciplinary sub-field that takes waste and wasting, broadly defined, as its topic of study. The field questions premises of what seems normal or given, and analyzes the wider role of society and culture, including social norms, economic systems, forms of labour, ideology, infrastructure and power in definitions of, attitudes toward, behaviors around, and materialities of waste, broadly defined. As its starting point, critical Discard Studies holds that waste is not produced by individuals and […]
Categories: Current Projects
Object Ethnography Project, 2011-present Online exchange platform Access and participate in the Object Ethnography Project here. Rule of exchange: You can take anything if you pay with a story about it. Each of the objects in the Object Ethnography Project has been donated by an ordinary person. Each object has a story. All these objects are available for exchange. You, or anyone else, can trade for any object by offering a new story about it. What attracts you to the […]
Salt-winning: Equal To or Greater Than, 2010-2011 Glass, road salt, trash Oxygen Art Center, Nelson, BC, Canada Rule of exchange: You can take anything at any time as long as you exchange it with something of equal or greater value. Salt-winning: Equal To or Greater Than is a trash-based social economy. Over one hundred miniature globes were created from discarded glass, trash, and winter road salt. Each globe could be taken away by gallery visitors at any time as long […]
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 trashtransformation.tumblr.com so we can watch the evolution of the model over time. 2. You can take […]
Steady-State: Development Without Growth, 2011 Mixed media, trash New Museum, Festival of Ideas for the New City & Sneak Peak, Freshkills Landfill Rule of interaction: You can touch, change, build and destroy anything, but nothing can leave or come into the “city.” Steady-State illustrates a steady-state economy as visitors shape a miniature model city made of New York City’s waste. Within the piece, the overall number of buildings, green spaces, and other urban infrastructures stayed the same, but people rearranged, […]
Founder/Worker, 2011 Trash, mixed media Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, USA Rule of interaction: When you build something for the city, you can either have your name recorded as a founder of the city, or you can be paid $5 as an anonymous worker. In Founder/Worker, visitors are invited to build part of a miniature New York City out of trash. Participants can them make a choice about what kind of credit they’d like for their […]
Rubbish Topographies, 2011 Mixed media, used tea bags, trash Touchstones Nelson, Nelson, BC, Canada Rule of interaction: Send the artist clean, dry tea bags as raw materials for an art installation. Rubbish Topographies is a landscape made of donated trash. Although the pile of tea bags and cardboard may bring to mind the panicked adage that, “we make too much garbage!”, it symbolizes something further. Every tea bag was saved, dried, and delivered by the artist’s family, friends, friends-of-friends, coworkers, […]
New York Trash Exchange (NYTE), 2010 Trash, mixed media AC Institute, New York, NY Rule of exchange: You can take anything at any time if you make and leave something for the city. The New York Trash Exchange (NYTE) is meant to mimic the New York Stock Exchange, but rather than trading money and debt, the Trash Exchange exchanges landmarks made of trash. Gallery visitors were invited to take any piece of the art during the exhibit as long as […]
Elocation, 2010 Mixed media trash and glue NURTURE art, Brooklyn, NY Rule of interaction: You can take anything that isn’t glued down, and you can glue anything down. Elocation was a trash-based social economy where anyone could take anything that wasn’t glued down, and they could glue anything down. The map depicts an area of East Brooklyn, New York, that suffers from gentrification. Elocation was meant to quantify the impulse to take things versus the impulse to keep things in […]
Material Afterlife: Circulation, 2009-present. Trash, mixed media Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), Grand Rapids, MI Rule of exchange: You can take anything at any time as long as you fill out a survey detailing where it is going. Material Afterlife: Circulation is an installation made entirely of scavenged trash. Each of the 139 lawns and 70 cars are available to be taken away by gallery visitors at any time. In exchange, visitors must update the whereabouts of the piece […]
The Dawson City Trash Project, 2008 Mixed media, trash ODD Gallery, KIAC, Dawson City, YK The Dawson City Trash Project is a miniature diorama of the current and historical garbage sites in Dawson City, Yukon. All of the raw materials used to create the miniatures are scavenged from these dump sites, and because visitors to the gallery had technically provided the materials for the exhibit, every piece of the installation was free to take away. The project enacts a landfill […]
Eco-system, 2005-present. Mixed media, cubes 3 x 2.5″ Rules of Exchange: You can buy any diorama for $20. Once you buy a diorama, you can either take it with you, in which case you take a Polaroid of it to mark its departure (and the money goes to the artist), or you can leave it behind in a preserved area, where no one else can take it (and the money goes to local preservation efforts). Eco-system began as a collection […]
Environmental Monitoring Wallpaper, 2010 Filters, mixed media, pollutants Environmental Monitoring Wallpaper is a DIY prototype for visualizing potential pollutants in the home. One filter is made of fine mesh nylon with a plastic resit pattern that I placed over a leaking bathtub facet. The result: brown stains, probably indicating iron from the pipes. The second is an air filter with a lung-like pattern stenciled onto it. After being in my air purifier for a month, I could see how much […]
Environmental Monitoring Diorama Series, 2009-2010 Trash, mixed media, various sizes While scavenging for Styrofoam from the old Dawson City dock in the Yukon, I noticed that huge holes had been dissolved or eaten into the plastic material. This had all happened underwater while the dock had been in service. Chemicals in the local Yukon River, where local people fished, dissolved Styrofoam. I used the damaged materials as the basis for a series of miniature northern landscapes; the pollutants did the […]
New Stories: Aurora Borealis and the Melting Tundra, 2008 Installation Staller Center for The Arts, Stony Brook, NY, USA This sound and tactile installation is based upon stories and experiences of climate change and global warming in northern Canada. Fur and gravel create a pseudo-landscape on the floor with the “northern lights” above. The ground is made of faux bear fur laced with butterflies and the gravel is mixed with sparkles and barely-discernible litter. Furry plants with music boxes inside, […]
The Post-Natural History Museum , 2005 Installation with cut outs, sharpie marker, minature dioramas, and pinhole photographs Lawrence Alloway Memorial Gallery, Stony Brook, NY. The Post-Natural History Museum is a critical installation concerning how nature is depicted in natural history dioramas. Pinhole photographs and miniature dioramas make up an alternative, more contemporary, version of “the natural;” they include factory farms, GMOs, mythical beasts, and ecological nightmare logic. The pinhole photographs are taken from The American Museum of Natural History in […]
Transition (Bear*), 2006 Photographs, 5 x 3′ These life-sized digital images were created in response to the safe, sanitized, idea of hybridity characteristic of mainstream versions of community, ecological risk, sustainability, and human mixing (whether it be genetic, racial, gendered, or mythical), all of which implied that there is a pre-hybrid state of purity and un-mixing. The figure(s) in Transition (Bear*) foreground a version of hybridity that is messier, creative, violent, and collaborative.
Lessons series, 2003 Collographs with china marker The Lessons series is made from the clash of objective systems and messy social reality. Each plate is of a social situation with a language system designed to reduce variability or confusion written over top (symbolic logic, phenomnic alphabet, Morse code, star navigation charts). In each case, the intent and the result(s) are at odds.
Experiments with Plants series, 2006 Collographs with gauche, 19 x 13″ The Experiments with Plants series shows an alternative scientific research method where “nature” has as much agency as the scientists and where the plants are active participants in the experiments, and perhaps even experimenters themselves. The reframing of the relationship between the plants and the scientists create a self-conscious science “fiction.”
I used early woodcuts of the New World as source material to redraw a three-dimensional stage-like environment and create flash animations. Many 16th to 18th century depictions of the New World are skewed towards lushness and adventure, including a tendency to depict an overpowering sexuality or monstrosity in plants, Native Americans, and the landscape. Woodcuts and engravings were the first images able to be mass produced and distributed, and were instrumental in popularizing the New World as being wild and […]
Photocopies, 2007 Early colonial woodcuts, engravings, and drawings illustrate a nature that is resource rich, highly feminized, untamed, unspoiled, and ripe for conquest. These simple collages are from New World woodcuts meant to objectively and scientifically illustrate the flora and fauna of the the Americas. Instead, the results are dirty pictures. This series was photocopied and put up in natural history and plant biology buildings at several post secondary institutions. If you would like high resolution copies to do something […]
Dioramas of North series, 2007 This two miniature dioramas are inset with pinhole photographs of plastic toys in the Alaskan landscape. Tiny people stand outside the glass, looking in. The pieces tell stories of institutions telling stories about the north. They depict a romanticized, national, often plastic idea of North, where the land and racist ideas about indigeneity are intertwined.
Florescent Habitats series, 2005-2006 pinhole photographs These pinhole photographs were taken at the American Museum of Natural History. They are part of a larger series that critiques the naturalized view of nature created in such spaces. The camera zooms out to include the artificial lighting and other infrastructure in what might otherwise look like photographs taken in the wild. They call attention to the intentionality of the taxidermied poses and scenes within the museum.
Utopia Diorama series, 2005-2006 pinhole photographs These pinhole photographs were taken at the American Museum of Natural History. They highlight the pastoral, fantastic, and technological character of nature within institutions where romanticism and science come together.