(2014, 60 x 72 in, packaging paper)
This conceptual, minimalist piece invites a dialogue concerning recycling, waste, and the science of cycles. Founded on the belief that human processes must act more like the natural processes that have maintained a balanced earth for thousands of years, recycling attempts to replicate the cyclical processes found on earth (such as the water, nitrogen, phosphorous, and carbon dioxide cycles). Examples include making buildings out of used materials, designing water reclamation plants to reintroduce water, and engineering materials that use less material and encourage recycling of “used” materials.
Herein lies the problem – the problem of “used.”
Let’s say you just received some books from Amazon Prime, or your mother finally shipped you that china for storage, or your best friend sent a care package of chocolate to you from Belgium. What will you value when you get the package? The items “inside,” of course; the items “they put in there for you;” the “valuables.” What happens to the rest? The box, its label, the tape to secure the box, and all that annoying packaging paper? It gets recycled if we’re lucky – or thrown away if we’re the average human. We do not value the contents that held the “valuables” – we ignore them. We turn a roundabout into a one-way straight to a landfill that lets toxic chemicals leach into streams and the ground. We throw local ecologies into danger. We introducing harmful positive feedback loops into our environment.
“Used” becomes unwanted. Recycling becomes unwanted.
I have been collecting packaging materials that have come in the mail for the past eight months and making art out of them. Boxes, plastic air bags, used tape, tissue paper, packaging paper: the “used” mediums. It began when I ordered watering cans; I found them wrapped in the paper you see hanging in my artwork. It’s an environmentally conscious paper in which the holes let the paper expand and fill “dead space” in packages; thus, less is needed to ship items safely. Not only did I love the materiality – it feels like cracked snake skin to touch, and when layers overlap, they create a visual effect similar to spinning wheels or tree branches aching through the wind. I hung up the five pieces with nails and thought. Why did we call this material used when it’s just as new to us as the materials held inside? I paid for this material (shipping and handling) but it was headed straight for the
This paper demanded me to have a social conscious. It spoke to me when I had never heard.
Shipping and Handling forces us to see how and why we value things we send, and that recycling can be just as fragile of a science as the paper that hangs here. If we fail to change our one-ways to roundabouts, we can’t expect our world built on cycles to sustain anything. So maybe one day I’ll use this very paper to send some chocolate I love to a friend across the globe.