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General, Trash

Trash and Treasure

Below is another awesome post from contributor Juliet. As always, read, comment, and enjoy!

“Right now, we don’t have an end life for our ‘stuff;’ everything is meant to be used once and that’s it”

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Olivier Giron – a young man who is a unique combination of artist, environmentalist and activist. His work is on display through mid-January in an exhibit called “The Ripple Effect” at the Art Museum of the Americas.

Giron uses his background in both landscape architecture and art to contemplate how we can better relate to our environment. He focuses on marginalized spaces where our waste is spilling over into our ecosystem and creates art around it to help bring awareness to harmful human behaviors that we almost don’t even notice anymore.

“I wanted to use the juxtaposition of beautiful places that have become not so beautiful,” Giron told me.  Most importantly, he did NOT want to have people look at his work with a “so what’s the big deal” mentality. “Every day, we almost don’t see trash and litter because we are completely desensitized.”

In “Something out of Nothing,” Giron uses illegal dumping sites and a combination of video, sculpture and photos to “re-contextualize discarded waste into new meaning.”

He was motivated to initiate this project after observing the practice of illegal dumping. He wanted to get a better sense of his “audience” (the “dumpers”), an audience he is eager to reach through his art. More than that, he is also interested in examining the underlying behaviors that lead to the dumping.

“This is not a developing country. Some of the sites I documented are five miles from where I live in Fairfax, VA.” Where, by the way, communities have curbside pick-up for their trash. “How did we get to this point, psychologically, where people just don’t care? Where it’s just easier to get rid of tires in the middle of an abandoned property than go to the county dump and wait in line behind 10 other trucks?” Giron wonders.

After monitoring dumpers via motion-activated surveillance cameras, he initiated a sort of dialog with them through sculpture, placed in the degraded spaces and using the waste that had been left there.

Because the message behind “Something out of Nothing” only speak to a finite number of people, Giron conceived of a different way to continue the conversation indoors, while still connecting people to outdoor spaces. His inspiration this time? Making more visible that which is already occurring in nature.

“I wanted to bring objects that, when they are out there (in nature), blend in and you don’t really see them. In the gallery space, though, they would stand out. People don’t have the ability in their daily life to see the amazing things that happen in nature. “

To do that, he created terrariums containing materials found at the sites where he was working. He demonstrates the resilience of nature by using specific varieties of plants and mushrooms known for their soil bioremediation characteristics.

“Regardless of how things are – nature is coping with that situation,” he explained.  “Even if its’ in a very stressful manner, nature is still adapting slowly. It’s interesting to me to see how these intersections connect.”

Giron intends to continue making art and engaging with people through sculpture, video and an increasing social media presence because, as he says, there is a much larger message about the direction in which our culture is headed.

“Right now, we don’t have an end life for our ‘stuff;’ everything is meant to be used once and that’s it,” he explains. “It’s not sustainable. The more advanced we get, the more and more wasteful we seem to get. Older generations were living more sustainably. We used to be a culture of fixing and repairing, but that’s not true anymore.”

For those of us who have a tendency to sound “preachy” when talking about environmental sustainability (not that I know from personal experience, of course), what I found most interesting about Giron’s work is that he is using art as a catalyst for education in a way that is extremely accessible. And, in my opinion, that’s pretty powerful.

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