Axisweb Curated Prize

As part of my research for the Axisweb Curated Prize, I interview the artists in my selection on their use of rubbish/waste/discards.

Interview with Inguna Gremzde

AB: Why do you work with rubbish/trash/discards?
IG: After arriving to London for MA studies in 2010 I was overwhelmed by the huge amount of packaging materials consumed in everyday life. Some blue bottle caps were landing on the table and in a metropolis with enormous amount of waste generated everyday recycling some of them in the form of artwork started to feel almost like a moral obligation. The work being easily portable also was important issue at the time. So the size of the caps serving as a useful contemporary frame dictated the scale of work.

AB: Do you have a preferred term for those materials?
IG: In general I refer to them as caps and lids (other work is painted on transparent plastic lids), but the overall used term is rubbish.

AB: Where do you source your materials from?
IG: I’ve been lucky to have an enthusiastic friend, artist fellow Luisa Sanchez Perez who did the sourcing for me. The work could not have been possible without the great help of community involvement. Important part of the project was to recycle already used caps despite being given a logical advice to ease the matter by simply ordering large number of caps from the manufacturer.

AB: What criteria do you have when sourcing your materials?
IG: So far I’ve been working only with packaging materials which have short life span and are destined to be thrown out immediately after use. It was essential that caps being mass produced rather perfectly shaped objects give unifying finish effect to paintings done by hand.
The important criteria for caps is to be undamaged and not too worn.

AB: What processes do you apply to/with these materials?
IG: The landscape is painted on a card (a bit thicker than paper), then the card is placed in a cap, which serves as a contemporary frame. The only process I can think of the caps undergoing is thorough washing.

AB: What context do you show your work in?
IG: I’ve been showing my artwork in galleries as a fine art pieces, as well as in Contemporary Art Centers, which often curate shows focused on subject of recycling materials.

AB: What happens to the materials/work afterwards?
IG: Hopefully the cap gets a sort of life extension in the form of artwork. These small framed landscapes could have been intended for looking at when seized by a vague feeling of necessity to escape from urban environment in metropolis with dense population where nature can be experienced only in the form of parks.


Currently Reading: Vergine, Lea. (2007). When Trash Becomes Art: TRASH rubbish mongo. Skira Rizzoli, Milan.


Lea’s introductory groupings of artists using trash are as follows:

Artists ‘treating’ trash: Vladimir Vladimirovich Dimitriev, Rougena Zatkova, Paul Joostens, Varvara Stepanova, Alberto Burri, Antoni Tàpies, Salvatore Scarpitta, Andres Serrano, Claudio Parmiggnai and Giuseppe maraniello.

Artists annotating, pulverising and emphasising trash: Meret Oppenheim, Eileen Agar, Ivan Pougny, Herbert Schürmann, Gianfranco Baruchello, Joseph Cornell, Claudio Costa, Gérard Deschamps, Jackson MacLow, jannis Kounellis, Louise Nevelson, Louise Bourgeois, Franco Vaccari, Ben Vautier, Charlotte Moorman and Franz West.

Artists using the lowest ranks of reality and redeem into langauage objects that have been discarded, degraded entities: Robert Gober, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Fabio De Poli, Michel Paysant, Hidetoshi Nagasawa, gabriella Benedini, Anthony Hernandez, Barbara Watson, Giulia Niccolai and Enrico Cattaneo.

Artists transforming objects into play: Picasso, Tom Sachs, Jean Tinguely, Richard Wentworth, Niki Saint-Phalle, Nam June Paik, Vedova-Mazzei and Jana Sterbak.

Artists transforming objects into lies and terribleness: Annette Lemieux, Louise Psihoyos, Barbara Watson, Cindy Sherman, Raffael Rheinsberg and Maurizio Cattelan.

Artists alternating with artworks and situation of ferocious irony: Tadeusz Kantor, Gerardo Di Fiore, Wolf Vostell, David Hammons and Mike Yamashita.

Artists making aesthetically or poetically unseemly works: César, Ettore Colla, Claudio Costa, Gérard Deschamps, Jacques Villeglé, Otto Mühl, Robert Rauschenberg, Erik Dietman, Piero manzoni, Carolee Schneemann, Fabio De Poli, Sabrina Sabato and Kcho.

Artists making cunning citations: Sergio Dangelo, Tom Sachs and Mimmo Rotella.

Artists making sculptural frivolities: Enrico Borghi

Specialists in ‘all full’, inventors of obsessive catalogues, of accumluation of minutia: Jackson MacLow, Arman, Herbert Kaufmann, Lewis Baltz, Alison Knowles, Mike Yamashita.

Artists dealing with the furious and psychotic or funereal, graveyard vein: Cindy Sherman, Andres Serrano, Louie Psihoyos, Catherine Opie, Tom Egil Jensen, Mario Giacomelli.

Artists dealing with the effects of subtle satire: Robert Rauschenberg, Vedova-Mazzei, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, George Maciunas, Gabriel Orozco.

Artists dealing with an adolescent romanticism veined with lyricism and small cruelties: Walter Dhan, Sabrina Sabato, Milan Knizak.

Artists triggering the resource of the narrative: Mark Dion, Matilde Trapassi, Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Nothing is footnoted or referenced in the book and there are no sources of Lea’s research provided. The loose groupings she makes in the introduction narrative are not cross-referenced with the artworks or chronological section – you have to make these connections yourself. The artworks section features work that I wouldn’t necessarily class as trash – Lea seems to be using a broader definition. She also makes no attempt to reveal her research methodology. However, it is a very useful starting point for my own research as I systematically enter each named artist into google to see what comes up.


Currently Reading: Vergine, Lea. (2007). When Trash Becomes Art: TRASH rubbish mongo. Skira Rizzoli, Milan.

Vergine Lea presents an anthology of mainly Western artists using trash. The format of the book is straightforward and image rich. In the introduction she groups artists in her survey of their usage, follows with a large Artworks chapter featuring the mentioned artists and more, then by a Fragments of Writings by Artists chapter and lastly an Illustrated Chronology of the Use of Trash which is edited by Rosella Ghezzi.

In making a definition of trash, Lea paraphrasing Giorgio Manganelli’s unnamed 1966 text proposes “trash is language.” (p.8)

In the introductory subsection What We Mean By Trash, Lea uses Italian writer and radio host Tommaso Labranca’s 1994 book on trash (Andy Warhol era un coatto. Vivere e capire il trash, Castelvecchi, 1994) defining trash as “an unsuccessful emulation, a failed imitation”. (p.8)

In the subsection Trash, Lea cites Italian writer and economist Guido Viale (1994, Un monde usa e getta) “The predication for used things over factory-new objects is a product of the belief that not everything is brand new is necessarily to be used and not everything that is old and worn need necessary be abolished. “Trash constitutes a world of its own, complete and symmetrical to the world of merchandise: A world that behind the mirror in which consumer civilisation loves to admire itself and create its own self-awareness, restores our understanding of the truer nature of the product that populate our everyday lives. The waste of industrial society and in a very particular manner, the trash produced by consumer civilisation, is in a certain sense the dross of that systematic activity of robbery and waste of the sources of the earth on which they are based. […] The presence of trash in the world is not eliminated with the supposed elimination through the various forms of waste management. Aside from that, we should recognise its reeking presence in the noosphere,that is, in the world of knowledge and understanding, which represents in some sense a parallel existence of trash in the heavens of the spirit, a genuine and full-fledged soul,. Trash is indeed an enormous, minute and incontrovertible, of the habits an forms of behaviours of those who produced it, aside from the beliefs and perceptions that they have of themselves…” (p.11/12)

Lea also notes that Bulgarian-French philosopher Julia Kristeva, writing on abjection, maintains that to make use of trash is “linked to the etymology of the world, which signifies a return and a shift.” (p.12)



George Dickie

In the build up to Market Value at A+D Gallery in Chicago next month, Upper Crust Auction House have published a little feature on the Museum of Contemporary Rubbish which aligns my practice here with Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the Univeristy of Illinois, Chicago’s theories of institutional aesthetic values in art:

George Dickie, an analytical philosopher, challenges traditional theories of aesthetic value, perception and experience. He is most well known for his controversial “institutional theory of art.” Simply put, this theory proposes that an object can only be called “art” within the institution known as the “artworld”. In other words, an object is not “art” in and of itself and can only achieve such valuation within a very specific context.

The work of Alice Bradshaw, which will appear in Market Value, can be seen as conversing with Dickie’s theory very directly. Bradshaw is the Director of the Museum of Contemporary Rubbish, a compelling collection of cultural discards. Along with several collaborators, Bradshaw extracts rubbish from the street, documents it and then places it within the Museum’s archive. This archive is then exhibited within galleries and museums across Europe and the United States.

Bradshaw’s aesthetic practice can be seen as an active engagement with Dickie’s institutional theory as the value of neglected cultural objects is transformed from what we call “trash” into what we call “art.”



Ma Qiusha solo exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, 18 January – 2 March 2013

Whilst in Manchester yesterday, I popped into the Chinese Arts Centre to see the new show by Ma Qiusha.

Born in the ’80s, Ma Qiusha is an up-and-coming artist living in Beijing. For her first UK solo exhibition with Chinese Arts Centre, she will be showcasing her key works to date. Ma Qiusha’s work reflects a special sensitivity with ordinary everyday objects and materials. Carefully, she re-stages them in an unfamiliar environment to tell a story or express suppressed emotions. Mainly working with video and painting, at first glance her work is calm and expressionless. Only if you spend a certain amount of time with the works, will the underlying story and emotion reveal itself.


In Two Years Younger Than Me (2011) her grandfather’s collection of beard clippings in medicine bottles are positioned on a small shelf in the entrance to the gallery along with a vinyl text piece No.43 Pingshadao (2012) telling the story of Two Years Younger Than Me. The text does not explain why the artist’s grandfather has this peculiar habit. Each small bottle is labelled with the year and chronological ordered. The short shavings are peppered black and white and seem to grow slightly lighter as the years go by. These found objects of collected waste material are united to the common theme of the exhibition of (razor) blades and form part of the artist’s autobiographical tracing of her family life through her work.