Museum of Contemporary Rubbish at Venn Projects, Blackpool, 14 March – 7 April 2014

Museum of Contemporary Rubbish has been invited to show at Venn Projects in Blackpool. The MoCR has made a Blackpool Collection for this exhibition, available as postcards, which feature alongside the Rubbish video documenting over 500 items in Collections from all over the UK, Germany, Italy, the US and Cuba.

The newly published Rubbish Newspaper (pdf download, 32.4MB) will also available at the exhibition.

Preview: Friday 14 March 6-8pm

Exhibition continues until 7 April 2014.

Gallery opening times: 9:30am-4:30pm Mon/Weds/Fri


Currently reading: Allan Kaprow – Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life (ed. Jeff Kelley), 1993, University of California Press (expanded edition, 2003).


The 2003 expanded edition preface includes a Participant Instruction (p.xxvii):

Building a tower of under Coca-Cola cans

Making a lot of noise

Tearing it down

The creation-destruction-creation cycle previously denoted is recurrent. What is also striking is this building of towers, knocking it down, and repeating, is something toddlers do and a milestone marker for early years development. What can be inferred from this ability to stack one thing on top of another is that children are learning that events follow one another or objects fit together in a particular way (Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooij – Wonder Weeks, 1992/2010, Kiddy World Promotions). It’s a major developmental leap for a ~12 month old and classed as an independent programme (self-initiated and also conducted independently). I know this because this is what Toby is doing at the moment, repeatedly.

Kaprow also talks about “un-arting” as a way of discarding art’s characteristics. (p.xxix) “But I took a cue from stories of monastic practices in which dissatisfied persons, seeking the proverbial meaning of life, give up the real world and its temptations for a presumed spiritual, and better one. Could this be done in art without physically going into a monk’s cell for life? I thought it could and called it “un-arting.” Essentially, this was accompanied by taking the art out of art, which in practical terms meant discarding art’s characteristics.”

Kaprow is also critical of art in art contexts. “That lint under beds and the debris of industrial dumps are more engaging than the recent rash of exhibitions of scattered waste matter.” (p.97)

He highlights the predicament of art’s un-arting by noting what has previously been done in The Education of the Un-Artist Part I (1971):

“When Steve Reich suspends a number of microphones above corresponding loudspeakers, sets them swinging like pendulums, and amplifies their sound pickup so that feedback noise if produced – that’s art. When Andy Warhol publishes the unedited transcript of twenty-four hours of taped conversation – that’s art. When Walter De Maria fills a room full of dirt – that’s art. We know they are art because a concert announcement, a title on a book jacket, and an art gallery say so.” (p.100)

Therefore, it could be deduced that un-arting requires a certain amount of novelty.

The is a further reference to garbage in Kaprow’s listed modes of art in Nontheatrical Performances (p.175). He cites examples for each mode, but I’ve only listed the garbage reference one here:

“An artist can:

(1) Work within recognizable art modes and present work in recognizable art contexts.

(2) Work in unrecognizable, i.e. nonart, modes but present the work in recognizable art contexts

(3) Work in recognizable art modes but present the work in nonart contexts.

(4) Work in nonart modes but present the work as art in nonart contexts eg garbage collecting, etc (with proviso that the art world knows about it).

(5) Work in nonart modes and nonart contexts but cease to call the work art, retaining instead the private consciousness that sometime it may be art, too.”

The categorisation modes are not so dissimilar to some of the comparative modes I made in my sorting of the artworks into newspaper and thesis piles. It would be interesting to go back and specifically use Kaprow’s method of categorisation against each work; applying his system to the works in the thesis pile in particular as these are the ones I’m now focussing on.


Currently Reading: Allan Kaprow: Art As Life, 1980, Getty Research Institute, LA.

Part 2/2

On Kaprow’s use of rubbish; “Reading through the earliest scores, created before he turned to a Zen-like conceptual simplicity in the later 1960s, one finds a focus on commonplace, junky materials and banal, ordinary actions coexisting with the epic pretensions and blatant melodrama. […] “A peculiar concatenation of the everyday with excess and epic pretension.”

“The Happening lives on in Kaprow’s writings as a phenomenom located in the gap between […] the scenario or projection of what the happening might be, and the recollection of, or commentary on what it was.” (Whereas a conventional artwork is an object that fills that gap). (p.27) This “objectlessness” is closer to works using rubbish objects than may first seem. The rubbish object, although can often be elevated to art object status, can also be the “stand-in”, prop or evidence in a photograph of an action or process aligned with a Happening. The rubbish object is not “where the art resides” as my BA tutor Keith Brown would have put it, but it merely a signifier pertaining the event. Perhaps this event is a “rubbishing”, to coin a Kaprow inspired phrase, as in the render rubbish.

In the chronology one work stands out as embodying this creation-decay/destruction-creation cycle Potts refers to on p.23:

Score for Sawdust, 7/10/70, Cologne

Sawdust (a décollage for Vostell)

large wooden beams

placed separately somewhere

reducing beams to sawdust

exchanging sawdust of beam

at each place

mixing sawdust with glue

putting sawdust into molds

to form new beams

getting more from less.


Currently Reading: Allan Kaprow: Art As Life, 1980, Getty Research Institute, LA.

Part 1/2

Allan Kaprow and his works and writings on Happenings and Non Art are important to rubbish research, not least because of the direct references and usages of rubbish and everyday detritus.

This book was published on occasion of the major touring retrospective Allan Kaprow – Art as Life and as such, exhibition publications standards prevailing, contains a number of curators’ essays and essays pertaining to the exhibition and content (Part Three: Agency for Action by Stephanie Rosenthal and Museum as Mediation by Eva Meyer-Hermann). The Chronology follows, listing works, exhibitions, reviews and life events, teaching positions and awards by year.

The essay of main interest for me is in Part One: Early Works and Writings entitled Writing the Happening: The Aesthetics of Nonart, Alex Potts (p.20). This essay sets the scene, and crucially, brings in the rubbish.

Potts introduces the concept of Nonart; “The point was to devise works that escaped the self-referentiality within which modern art was trapped, […] that were, as he put it “lifelike”, […] an art that momentarily exists outside the context of the art world. (p.20)

And “[Happenings] were in effect informal assemblages of events and situations played out over space as well as time.” (p.20)

“To be anything more than superfluous, artworks had to take something categorically non-artistic as their point of departure.” (p.23) Potts also references the aesthetics of junk. Everyday objects and situations/processes, are essentially my own points of departure. When dealing with art made from rubbish, this could be said to be categorically non-artistic, almost as a binary polarisation.

A survey of junk art assemblages made by Kaprow and other artists such as Robert Rauschenberg including many of Kaprow’s writings, is referenced on p.22: Assemblage, Environment & Happenings (1966).

Potts expands quite a bit on the rubbish aspect: “ An artwork made out of impermanent, disregarded, and expendable everyday materials that “will pass into dust or garbage very quickly,” [Kaprow] explained, could exist as something much more suggestive than “a fixed, enduring object to be placed in a closed case.” Its essential mutability, its truthfulness as a phenomenon caught up in larger cycle of “creation-decay-creation,” was partly determined by the realities of the modern world of consumer capitalism – a world of junk and throwaway products. But it also had to do with a deep sense of temporality, an ephemerality that subtended the very fabric of everyday living and thinking.” (p.23)

Kaprow talks about the use of rubbish: “The use of debris, waste products … has, of course, a clear range of allusions with obvious sociological implications, the simplest being the artist’s positive involvement, on the one hand with an everyday world, and on the other with a group of objects – which, being expendable, might suggest that corresponding lack of status which is supposed to be the fate of anything creative today. These choices must not be ignored, for they reveal what in our surroundings charges the imagination as well as what is the larger issue of reality understood as constant metamorphosis. The viewpoint, the metaphysics, is more fundamental than our “throwaway” culture. The latter is the topical vehicle for the former and, while important, should become something else in time.” (p.23) Kaprow, Assemblage (note 1), p.169

Potts notes a move away from earlier object-based works. “Kaprow noted that he alternated between things that had “a high degree of associated meaning” because of their function, social use, and psychological associations, such as “machine parts, baby carriages, clothings” and more “generalized” materials, such as “cloth,” “cardboard,” and “wood,” that “are somewhat less specific in meaning. These materials were not necessarily used or rejected, even if they often became rubbish in the course of a Happening. (p.23)

Potts clarifies: “His conception of nonart, then, is not to be confused with a conventional celebration of antiform at the expense of form.” (p.24)



Supermarket Art Fair, Stockholm, 14-16 February 2014

Part 5/5

Then I took a proper look at Qwerty’s booth while it was a bit quieter on Sunday morning. In the entrance to one side of the 3rd third floor, and popular too, it had always been too busy to see what the Real Estate Agency project was about. It was a fantastic exchange project “buying and selling houses, real estates and properties” by artists from the group, with the artists smartly dressed and talking the talk to make the deal of a lifetime. One of the agents (Indigo Richards) talked me through the portfolios and asked what I had to exchange/buy with. I offered one of my newspapers and told her about it. Then I asked to exchange with Jens Andersen’s property for an imaginary space – something new he would design in response to the newspaper. He drew me a simple platform made of planks on the imaginary scape pinned up in the booth and we closed the deal signing the contract, a photographed handshake and a shot of schnapps. I think the platform is the perfect space to read a newspaper from.

My last stop, schnapps fuelled, before heading to the airport was the TFHMF Award 2014 by the Tupajumi Foundation (NL) and HeavyMerryFinland; a crowd-funded award presenting the 6 shortlisted candidates. For SEK10 you could vote, for SEK20 you could vote and get a pencil and for SEK200 you could vote and get a tote bag. I knew already who I wanted to vote for, but was interested to know more about the project. The collaboration came about from both organisations meeting at a previous Supermarket and decided to put forward a joint venture. The model is simple: The Supermarket visitors vote for one of the shortlisted artists (from a longlist of 25) and donate the prize money. My vote with my almost last SEK20 was for Pia Sirén’s Cross-Section; a stacked retail cage/trolley filled with industrial materials like a geological cross-section and topped with synthetic grass. I thought for the context of Supermarket this was perfect. I hope she wins!

So, conclusively, getting detailed feedback on the newspaper proved quite challenging. The reaction seemed good – people laughing and taking it away is a big positive. But a more in depth peer review is needed. I did ask a few people if they would email me any further thoughts once they’d had a good look at it – a one liner or any type of review/crit to help me – so that may yet happen. Although other exhibitors were interested in my newspaper, it was hard to gain in depth feedback as they were often much more interested in talking about their own work, which is not surprising. It’s also quite a lot of content so anything beyond a surface evaluation on the spot is impractical in the art fair context. It was a good exercise to test the reception of it though and I feel I accomplished my objectives with some possible follow ups through new contacts and ideas to further evaluate it through peer networks.

I’m particularly thankful I got to spend all 4 days at the fair and go each day in shorter visits, rather than try to cram everything into 1 day or even 2. It gave me time to reflect and plan what to do in the visits I made after getting a feel for it and assessing the size, as well as spend a bit of time checking out the city and the Moderna Museet. So, big thanks to University of Huddersfield for part funding my trip!