Out of sight, out of mind.
That’s how Pascal Murphy sees our culture’s take on garbage. We purchase a product, consume it, and then toss it away. But he thinks we fail to consider what goes on after we toss it in the trash. And that’s why he turned York University’s Vari Hall into a dumpster for a day.
York amasses roughly twenty-two hundred tonnes of waste each year, the equivalent of about six tonnes per day (almost the weight of an elephant, daily). But with individual bins for collection, garbage bag changes throughout the day, and dumpsters in alleys, no one really sees it all add up―except for Pascal. A graduate student at York working on his masters in Environmental Studies and “Garbology,” Pascal says the idea struck him at home in his apartment, conveniently overlooking―you guessed it―a dumpster. “Every day it keeps piling up, and then it gets taken away,” he said, “And the more we hide it, the less we rethink it.” To force people to see the trash for themselves, he, along with the deceivingly titled environmental group York Gets Wasted, invited students and faculty to throw their waste into a one-day landfill, smack dab in the entrance of the University’s main foyer. Surrounded by cautionary tape and conversation-starting images like those from Chris Jordan’s series on “Intolerable Beauty,” the garbage pile grew in size and smelliness all day long.
It wasn’t the prettiest art installation we’ve seen. Its rotting, dirty smell infiltrated the entire building and its surrounding pathways. At one point, Pascal had to interrupt answering a question to repeat a statement he’d just overheard from a passer-by. “Ugh, it smells like garbage everywhere,” she’d groaned. But just like the old adage says, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. “Art is something that makes you think,” said Pascal, admiring his work. Judging by the faces of the many who stopped by to admire the installation, his project seems more of a masterpiece.
Photos by Allan Lissner.