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Use It All Up : overview

In 2006, I freaked out about trash. I harvested all non-recyclable and non-compostable trash that I and my family generated, from about 2006 through 2011. I cleaned and sorted this trash and worked to process it, in all its myriad typologies, into newly useful raw materials.

Above, three right gloves + one left glove. Fabric from deconstructed unwanted garment. Three right gloves a result of a dyslexia-like experience with inside-out of sewing a pattern created from a found solo glove. Imperfect objects—wonky, awkward—expose the chaos of my mind as I made them.

During this time, at least a couple people became well known for similar, but usually shorter-spanned, versions of this experiment. Without duration, I believe they missed crucial information, particularly how difficult it is to continue living a "trash-free" life, right now.

I conducted this experiment with constant awareness of the people who live on or next to landfills all over the world, who work to survive using the jumbled, messy discards of the more prosperous. Really, trash is misfiled or misplaced material. The speed at which post-industrial capitalism demands we live means the expensively (but not paid for!) extractions are readily wasted.

Above. Mel asked if I could improve—mend—her handbag. As I started to work with it, I ended by deconstructing it, to its base components : Its fabrication baffled and fascinated me. I still feel uncomfortable (pain, really) at this object—of the labor to gather those diverse materials and assemble them.

I'm still freaked out about trash—how much we collectively produce that has no right place to go, the relentless cravings and conveniences that keep it happening. A constant thrum in my mind and heart.

[ Here will be a video of a garbage truck emptying its load at the SF transfer station. In 2003, San Francisco said it would be "zero waste" by 2020.]

Over 6+ years of harvesting trash while attempting to (a) transform all trash into "new, raw material" and (b) not acquire trash, I discovered viscerally and painfully that the waste stream is insidiously complex. Not only plastics, but so many types of plastic, most of which don't play well together. Good metal in wire yet covered in synthetic rubber and plastic. All that packaging. Fabrics with plastic in them or 100% plastic. (In case you hadn't figure it out, it's not good for the environment to recycle plastic bottles into clothes. You just shed microplastic fiber everywhere, all the waterways, every organism's bloodstream. Including yours.) Reusable milk bottles with plastic caps and those plastic "worms" to seal the cap.

Above, sorting one full year's worth of non-recyclables. Once sorted, I did end up throwing out a bunch of collections. Just ran out of ideas and energy to manage them.

The name Use It All Up [UIAP] emerged when I decided to use up materials I already had—no more shopping ! This was partly a reaction to my own earlier extravagances (see Installations, 1998-2001) and a sudden, belated understanding of supply chains and materials extraction. Another name for this project is SubOptimal Products. The joke there is that nearly all products are suboptimal—whether they have toxic ingredients or unnecessary packaging or impossible to repair or made to become immediately obsolete or are completely unnecessary for a satisfying life.

Above, assortment of trashes. Foam from packing and old furniture, scraps of tarp, studio dirt.

Use It All Up recognizes that , however virtuous, restrained, minimal our individual behavior, collectively we in capitalist economies behave as though determined to use up all resources.

This project didn't resolve—how could it? So many scraps to attend to, eventually I just didn't want to anymore. UIAU did generate specific, somewhat unlikely groups of objects and rituals. For example, I became determined to make everything I needed myself, with whatever was available as a result of not throwing anything away. With skills not always matching this intention, some useful-but-abject objects were deliberately not put to use, except briefly for private rituals. Because of "non-use," they might be properly taken (or mis-taken) for art. 

Above, basket improvised from scavenged straps and wires. Foreshadowing Energy Being's sponsor, the Anthropocene Basketweaving Association. (Check out this video.)

Use It All Up includes many things and actions, but especially these major categories:   

lingerie + apparel //  billboards and signs   //  containers // mending // Logo Removal

as well as live performances — quixotic gestures — of micro-scale manufacturing.

Belatedly, posthumously, #convenienceequalsdeath became the slogan for Use It All Up.


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