My permaculture friend Todd always likes to pepper everyday conversation, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, with the term “pollution”. You see, in the course we did together, we were given a new perspective on the concept of pollution – which was redefined – not as something absolute and evil, but rather as a surplus of any resource for which a use has yet to be found.
To offer an example of how this works: in a forum I attended a few days ago in Bundanon, Pia Winberg, an environmental scientist at University of Wollongong drew attention to the untapped potential of seeweed as an Australian Industry. For Pia, seeweed is great because you can grow a lot of it in salty water (sidestepping the salinity problem), and it can be used to mop up some of the destructive nitrogen and phosphorus “pollution” created by fish farming industries. In other words, if you locate a seeweed farm near a fish farm, the pollution from the fish farm becomes, rather, a resource for the seeweed farm.
On a smaller and slightly more absurd scale, Todd, who has a lot of chickens in his south-coast backyard, likes to brag that he has an “egg pollution” problem. Which he, very kindly, solves by giving eggs away. Even better, he offers to help others solve their “empty egg carton pollution” problem, which helps him package his eggy pollutants. You get the idea…
Which brings me to a looming issue. There’s only one month to go on the In the Balance exhibition at the MCA. What will happen with all the stuff used to put together the show, when it finishes?
Obviously, many of the artworks are discrete entities which will be packaged up and freighted home to their owners (yes, with all the associated resource use and carbon emissions and so on). Some works, however, were created on-site, and will have to be dismantled, and/or re-housed come the start of November.
One such work is this one, by the Future Farmers:
It’s their “SUNSHINE STILL” and “SUN RUNNER” – a prototype, three dimensional, non-working model for a hypothetical system which takes trash and turns it into hooch, and biodiesel. I worked with the artists to do an audit on the project, which you can read about here.
Dan and Ian built it on site at the MCA (and while they were in residence at the National Art School where they were hosted in the lead up to the show). But shortly after the show opened, they returned to America, to move on to the next chapter of their ongoing Sunshine Still project.
And now, discussions are beginning about what is to be done with their MCA piece. Here’s an email I received from Anna, the curator who looked after the Future Farmers during their time here:
Iâ€™m not exactly sure why Iâ€™m sending you this â€“ perhaps its in your auditor capacity or maybe its because you have lots of great ideas and know lots of people…
Anyway below are some emails between me and Amy (Futurefarmers) discussing what will happen to their work at the end of the show.
Unfortunately our budget doesnâ€™t have allowances to ship it anywhere â€“ but we could deliver it (or parts of it) in our truck somewhere local.
I am trying to think of possibilities â€“ I think Iâ€™ll ask Katie at the National Art School in case the sculpture department wants the Sun Runner – I guess the main issue is really where to keep it as it is pretty big.
So yeah if you have any bright ideas Iâ€™d love to hear them and then I can pass them on to the Futurefarmers to see what they think. Amy lists the kinds of things sheâ€™d ideally like below
I’m not going to reproduce her whole conversation with Amy from the Future Farmers, but I will share a few of the things that Amy has in mind for the work.
It seems like some good scenarios would be:
-it goes somewhere where many people can enjoy it
– a collector acquire it for a nice sum that can fund future projects (and a plane ticket for anna and elmar to come visit )
-it gets donated to a go-cart contest
Other obvious scenarios which occur to me might involve the work being broken down into its constituent parts and re-used in some way. There’s plenty of nice perspex and plywood in the piece, not to mention those large “demijohn” bottles which a home brewer could use … and the bike wheels, which came from the Nunnery Bike Workshop in the first place, and could probably go back there … Freecycle could help with re-housing some of these bits.
But this kind of work – breaking it down, making it useful again, finding new homes – involves a lot of nitpicky labour – entropy in action! In fact, it could potentially add up to a similar amount of time and effort as was used to find the materials and construct the work in the first place. Will the museum see this as a worthwhile venture, given the theme and focus of this particular exhibition? Or will time be too crucial? Will the skip-bin be called to the rescue? Can we come up with a more interesting solution to the art of pollution?
Do you, dear reader, have any suggestions?