Friday, May 23


With the onset of spring I would like to introduce

TGIF: Think Green, It's Friday!

Fridays I will post something to do with the green theme, with a special focus on green in connection to art. I also post finds to do with the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), new policies in government or industry, eco-friendly appliances and vehicles... anything green!

(Hehe I feel like a genius sometimes. TGIF just makes me giggle.)

To start off, I would like to post this article in the local Edmonton Journal:

Recycling thinkers make art of trash

Local gallery, film fest highlight international waste conference

Todd Babiak, The Edmonton Journal

Published: Sunday, May 11

We are what we throw away, as individuals and as a society. Sculptors, painters, photographers and installation artists have known this for some time. It's no accident that Tony Soprano, one of the icons of the new century, was a "waste management consultant."

Don Delillo's giant 1997 novel, Underworld, considered to be one of the most important if least-read classics of the late 20th century, uses garbage to define postwar America. The protagonist, Nick Shay, is employed by a firm called Waste Containment. He becomes romantically involved with an artist whose medium is the abandoned airplane. The book is a meditation on human offal in all its forms -- from excretions and simple trash to nuclear waste and mass media.

Our relationship with waste is possibly the least attractive aspect of human society. Cities and countries are judged by their ability to clean water, to limit and transform waste. Today, in the age of recycling, we transcend and perfect ourselves as individuals by reducing and reusing, which are creative activities. It's much easier to consume a lot and toss it all. Now more than ever, environmentally and morally and even artistically, we're encouraged to think about waste.

"There are so many cultural manifestations," says Gary Spotowski, from the Edmonton Waste Management branch. "How we see it, deal with it, use it, think about it, sometimes even beautify it.

"We're certainly defined by consumerism, and that's what pushes waste around like a giant bulldozer."

Instead of doing the usual thing for Waste: The Social Context, an international conference taking place in Edmonton this week -- mixers, speeches, a pub crawl -- Spotowski and the good people at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence decided to link up with arts organizations. Consumable Waste: The Perfect Product, a design show at Latitude 53, is open for viewing this week and opens officially with a reception on Thursday. Reel Waste: Films on Garbage, a four-day film festival at Metro Cinema, is a collection of fascinating local and international documentaries programmed by Spotowski.

The films will look at everything from the reasons Edmonton transformed from landfill disaster to a continental leader in waste management to Shipbreakers, a compelling look at the dismantling of old ships on the beaches of India. "I was looking for things that documented some horrors of waste management around the world," Spotowski says, over an Italian soda at Three Bananas on Churchill Square. "But films that also dignified the people that deal with waste, from sorters to artists. And I wanted some humour in there."

Spotowski comes to this honestly, he says. Thirty years ago, he was a garbageman. "I saw what we threw away 30 years ago, before recycling was a word on anyone's lips. In that sense, the transformation of the past 20 or 30 years has been astounding and gratifying."

After an education degree and some time as a sculptor working with scrap steel and Styrofoam, Spotowski has come to this: encouraging the whole city to join international leaders in thinking about waste, through art.

Edmontonians may not be willing to sign up for a conference devoted to comparing strategies and social marketing for waste and recycling. But we do like our movies and art galleries. There are hundreds of conventions in Greater Edmonton every year, large and small, some fascinating and some not-so-fascinating, but organizers can learn a thing or two from Spotowski and his colleagues. He's working with gallery owners and film programmers who are always keen to develop and nurture new audiences.

Why not a mini oil-and-gas literary festival? Or a dance show, commissioned by a teachers' convention? The first chamber opera written for an international pipefitters gathering could be right here in Edmonton.

For now, we'll concentrate on waste (please recycle this newspaper).

For more on the film festival and design show, see and

© The Edmonton Journal 2008

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