(One of the posts I wrote on my Swell 24.7 blog in my previous life as a gift store owner in the busy tourist town of Provincetown on Cape Cod; posts that are grouped here under the category What Else Is Swell?, and are generally about life in Provincetown, life as a retailer, our fabulous dog Jack who sat outside the store for well over a decade, and other random things that grabbed me at the time.)
Nick and I went to an incredible art opening at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum on Friday. Local artist Robert Rindler has apparently been collecting plastic stuff (toys, containers, cookware, utensils, action figures, carnival beads, etc., etc.) for over ten years and has used them in a site specific installation at PAAM.
The pieces are all collected from local dumps (seriously, it looks like Cape Cod transfer stations are where Mr. Potato Heads go to die) and he has painstakingly cleaned each and every single one of them bringing them back to their original pristine condition. There are thousands upon thousands of them. According to the PAAM description: "He has sorted these discarded gems of contemporary industrial design into several categories defined by color, shape, size and intended use, and reorganized and recontextualized them into transformational assemblages." (Which I think is fancy artist talk for "it's mind blowing how you can change the way we look at something by putting it with a bunch of similar somethings in a different context from what it was made for".) And mind blowing it is; well, at least my mind felt like a category 5 tornado had blasted through it. I am in awe that someone thinks of this and then executes it in such a beautiful, unexpected and visually breathtaking way. Whether you stand back and look at the whole, or go up close and pick out individual pieces, it is just mesmerizing. The whole seems to bring together the unique (and unknown) histories of each of the individual pieces, creating a new collective history now that they have been part of this exhibit. (That's my own fancy art talk, by the way!)
And I read in the program that at the end of it's run people are allowed to take 25 pieces, for free. So then these previously discarded trinkets will go to people's homes with the accolade of 'art' attached to them elevating them to a whole new status and giving them a whole new history. How fantastic is that? It's so simple, and yet so perfect. I mean really, off the top of my head I can't think of anything more fantastic right now.
Because I wouldn't leave until they turned the lights off and kicked us out, Rindler was behind us as we walked down Commercial St. and he was telling someone how he is interested in plastic because it is designed to be disposable and yet it doesn't decompose so it lives on for ever. He talked about how each piece was designed, manufactured, sold, bought, used and discarded. That along each of those steps someone made a decision or choice about it; how it would look or feel or function, whether to buy it or not, whether to throw it away or not. And now he has made a choice to retrieve it, clean it and put it in a specific place in his art installation. And then he started saying something about plastic being dangerous, and he mentioned that humongous Texas sized area of floating plastic stuff in the Pacific, and some other things. But then he went into a restaurant and it just felt like it would be totally inappropriate to follow him and invite myself to dinner (don't think it didn't occur to me). So I'll have to wait until Thursday when he and the curators will be talking about the exhibit at PAAM.
The show reminded me of the Rachel Perry Welty 24/7 exhibit at the deCordova Museum (which sadly closes today). She takes stuff that us lesser mortals would throw out (fruit stickers, twisty ties, takeout containers, cereal boxes) and creates absolutely extraordinary art out them. It's very different from this exhibit. Hers seems more precise or something. I can't quite put my finger on the differences between them even though they feel very different. (Clearly no more fancy art talk in me.) But there is a similar sense of seeing something in everyday objects that most of us discard without a second look; and both are quite open about their obsessive compulsions to collect and organize stuff.
The deCordova is 3 hours from us so unfortunately I was only able to go twice but PAAM is about 10 mins away and I plan to to get there as many times as I can in the next month. I don't think I could ever tire of looking at all those pieces of plastic, and I'm sure I'll see something new every time I go. Maybe I'll start to see my trash in a new light too.
The Robert Rindler exhibit (Recycling Vernacular, Collecting Sorting Illuminating, Moment Place Object)is on until May 29th and you can see more about Rachel Perry Welty here. Check them both out. They are both quite amazing and utterly inspirational to me.
(Read about the closing of the Robert Rindler exhibit.)