TRAIL OF TRASHURE
American artist Mierle Laderman Ukules made sanitation workers of NYC part of her maintenance art. Dutch artist Kirsten Heshusius collected litter for five hours along the water’s edge of a bay in Amsterdam and then threw it all back into the water. Our litter is not only refuse. It is also a sign of our times and says something about how we live. Each piece of litter has gone through many different hands, from the manufacturer to the transporter to the storage worker to the salesperson and finally into the hands of the consumer.
As an artist from the Netherlands, I have traveled to the States numerous times. And I have come to expect being accused at Customs of wanting to stay in the country to find work. My status in the US is officially that of a tourist.
In “Trail of Trashure” I swept litter down the street a distance of 1.5 miles to the location of the space hosting the event, the Defibrillator Gallery at Zhou B Art Center in Bridgeport, Chicago. I started from the Orange Line’s Halsted stop, going down S. Halsted St. and turning west onto W. 35th St.
Sweeping the streets with a broom was both meant to be a stroll for the pleasure of it and a walk in search of discarded treasure, while remaining only a traveler and a visitor who doesn’t work. I wanted to accumulate waste while sweeping continuously. But because the pile grew fast and I soon could hardly manage to move forward, I had to change my strategy and leave trash behind. In retrospect, this action had become the moving of litter around on the streets, rather than the collection of everything encountered. Some places were cleared of litter completely, while other points, in contrast, were left behind with a trace of new trashures.
For the exhibition the gallery space was left with the pathetic heap of waste that I ended up with by the time I pushed it into the building. I had worked up a sweat when I swept what remained into the light of the exhibition entrance and placed the broom against the wall next to it. But on the day of the opening the pile of litter had mysteriously disappeared.