Friday, December 11, 2009

Tossed and Found

I am neverendingly astounded at the logic of the mainstream conciousness of this country, and much of this world. It is commonplace, NORMAL to deliberately create things that will not last or worse, that will become "outdated" in a very short time. We have an economy that is based on cheap crap that breaks, and huge corporations hire executives to convince us that we cannot live without these things. Our lives will be so much faster, easier, more efficient. We will be more comfortable, happier, COOLER, safer, healthier, better looking, classier, and we will have more fun, not to mention be the envy of all our friends if we would just BUY the latest cheap crap gizmo.
Along with this "economy" comes a mountain of burden placed on the planet (and ultimately US, not that we want to LOOK at that part of the equation) in the form of pollution created in the making of these products, the mining that is required for some of their parts (such as Urainium for cell phones) the by-product waste that occurs in manufacturing, and finally the waste of the discarded products themselves.
What is the plan for all of this waste? Unfortunately, there usually isn't one. A lot of stuff comes into existance and no one knows what to do with it. I recently had a conversation with someone who was SO proud of the fact that in the city she lived in, there was a facility where people could drop off expired medications so that they wouldn't be dumped into the water system. Well, in theory, that's wonderful, but me being ME, I said "what do they do with them when they are turned in?" She got a bit huffy and said "They are DESTROYED", OF COURSE!" I said that I felt that was a rather vague answer, and I wanted to know HOW they were destroyed. Burned? Buried? Broken down in water, and then......? Which brings us back to the beginning of the circle. There is no good way to get rid of so many of these things.
In my mind, I see the future-world much like it appears in the movie "Idiocracy", a post consumer nightmare landscape, built from mountains of trash. Cities either teeter dangerously on the heaps, or lie sprawled in the shadowy valleys of trash that threatens to avalanche and bury them. Handbags, shoes,clothing, computers and all of their components, cars-which are made with an alarming amount of plastic, not to mention one-use plastic that practically everything comes in, much of it practically bulletproof and impervious to decay.
With this in mind, I have dedicated myself to making art from discarded materials as much as I possibly can. I refuse to purchase any more canvas, when perfectly good plywood from construction goes to waste every day. I try to repurpose things that have been thrown away into beautiful useful, ARTful things. I try not to purchase things that come in one use only, disposable packaging, and when I purchase things online, I ask in the notes to seller that the item NOT be shipped with non recyclable packing materials such as packing peanuts and bubble wrap. I ask for crushed newspaper instead, and a surprising number of shippers comply.
I have ceased purchasing plastic bags for food storage, and I reuse grocery sacks whenever possible, except that these are often made DELIBERATELY with holes in the bottom. It's part of the design, for no good reason I can see. I found large tote bags at the dump that work wonderfully for hauling groceriesand when the last of the plastic sacks are gone, I will not use them anymore.
Nothing pleases me more than to find a way to problem solve by repurposing something that has been thrown away. I've been wanting to try to learn to knit, but have been unable to, due to lack of knitting needles. I kept hoping some would show up at the dump. I found a couple of bags of yarn, but no needles. Then I remembered that, in my sculpture studio (my former home, the recycled school bus) I had some long metal pegs that had come from the drawers of a card catalogue. KNITTING NEEDLES! They are not only perfectly functional as knitting needles, but they also have an attractive steampunk air about them.
As the cheap-crap economy has crashed, recession (or some say a depression) crushes much of the nation, we have begun to find that we CAN live without the latest cheap crap trinket. As in the Great Depression, more and more, people are beginning to rediscover the art of tinkering--cobbling useful things together with things that were no longer useful in their original capacity. The term "hobo" has made a comeback. If only we can encourage and spread this new way of thinking, and not go back to our disposable ways if, and when the economy turns around On that note: buy local. Buy handmade--support an artist or craftsperson. Don't buy cheap crap. Find a way around it. If you can't afford to buy from a craftsperson, make it yourself, out of something discarded. Fix it. Patch it. Paint it.
Breathe new life into something discarded and use it, and it will breathe life into YOU. Into all of us. The earth thanks you. I thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Love this post. Agree completely. We live in a throw away culture, and it is sad. I feel guilt seeing all the waste we produce and I try to cut back as much as I can. If you have clothes, computers, old ANYTHING (even if it is broken- it is surprising to how many people that, yes, your trash IS someone elses treasure!): bring it to a thrift store, sell it on ebay, craigslist, bring it to a recycling center if there is one nearby. Seeing people throw their trash on the streets, littering, is so disappointing to me. My boyfriend did this all the time when I first started dating him, and I broke him of it within a few weeks. Everytime I was with him and saw him throw a wrapper on the ground, or roll down the card window to throw something on the road, I would stop him tell him to pick it up, put it in his pocket, wait till he saw a trash can because it wasn't that hard to keep a wrapper in his pocket. He would stop himself, and wait. I ended up coming up with an analogy from seeing him do it so much: How you you feel if I walked into your mother's house, and say, opened up a bottle of water. Then sat there talking to her, finished my water...and threw the bottle in her face? If I threw my trash in the face of your mother? I would not do that - aside from it being improper etiquette - I would not do that, because I would wish you would not throw trash in the face of my mother either, of YOUR mother. So why would you throw trash in the face of your mother Earth, who provides for you? Your provider - of water, air, food, beauty...
    I found a gift card to a nearby fast food 'restaurant' on the ground when i went for a walk one day - I picked it up, went home, incorporated it into a mosaic!! I make jewelry out of magazines and old computer parts... I could go on about this, but I'll stop myself here. But again, kudos on this.