Sometime last year a portal opened up in the rubbish room of my apartment building. Many fascinating objects came through and I took photos of them. I did this because I was curious, enchanted and wanted to document evidence of an alternate universe. At this time I did not consider myself to be making art.
When I say this, I’m not being self-deprecating.2 It’s just that I think art is something intentional, where objects are constructed or sought out and/or commentary is made about an aspect of the world and/or the boundaries of some genre or technique are extended and/or there’s an exhibition coming up and/or other stuff like that. None of which was relevant to me. I just saw some cool things, took pictures of them, and in the usual way slapped them on social media.
The portal was very active, lots of stuff came through and pretty soon I had lots of pictures. And one day when I wasn’t looking they reached critical mass and suddenly I had a collection.
Some of the objects in the rubbish room. You can see them all in the 'Objects Appear in the Rubbish Room' gallery at the bottom of the homepage.
A collection is quite a different thing to a bunch of stuff. A bunch of stuff is like when jigsaw pieces lie around separately and randomly. A collection is like when they’ve all been joined together and made into a picture. A collection is a whole, greater than the sum of its parts.
What happens with collections is that when you acquire something of relevance it’s no longer just because that individual thing is great. It’s also because that thing is similar to other things which together make a mega-thing which the new thing is automatically part of. That is, collections mean objects have a pre-determined destination and value and purpose beyond simply existing on their own.
The inevitable effect of a collection on me is that I start looking for stuff to feed it.5 So my ‘oh cool, something’s come through the portal’ trips to the rubbish room became ‘oh man I really hope something’s come through the portal’ trips instead. It’s a whole different, much more purposeful vibe. It was the same with posting the pictures. Now, instead of sharing snaps I was displaying a collection. The photos had become a series.
Remember how I said art is intentional? Well, things were getting intentional. I was no longer stumbling across amusing rubbish room stuff. Instead I was looking out for new offerings to take pictures of to add to the collection which I was displaying on social media.
My wee 'Objects Appear in the Rubbish Room' movie
From here my art posturing only got worse. I got to thinking my collection was cool. So cool that when I saw a call-out for Ambient Television submissions (an excellent series of film evenings curated by Theo MacDonald) I figured I could make a wee movie of it. And I did. And it was screened.3
The intentionality was piling up and I was arting all over the place. But I had not yet finished! Melissa Laing, curator of the really great Nikau Superette Art project kindly invited me to show some work4 and I decided to show my collection of rubbish room pictures. To do this I had to get them printed. I had to make them into physical objects. Analogue objects. Proper old-school put-in-a-gallery objects. Which I guess is just what I did, albeit a very tiny humble gallery.1
'Objects Appear in the Rubbish Room' at the Nikau Superette micro gallery
And honestly, for all my anti-art, punk posturing I was pretty happy about it. When Melissa and I hung the photos up it felt good. I was proud and I jumped up and down and maybe even squealed. And I dragged many friends and family to the dairy for viewings and to have an ice block.
So let’s recap – Collecting photos of rubbish room offerings INTENTIONAL; displaying the collection online INTENTIONAL; responding to a call-out INTENTIONAL; making a film out of the pictures INTENTIONAL; agreeing to show the pictures at the Dairy INTENTIONAL; printing out the pictures to do this INTENTIONAL; taking people to have a look INTENTIONAL; writing all about it in this blog post INTENTIONAL.6
So yep, my pictures of rubbish had become art.
P.S. No objects have appeared for ages. Either the portal to the other universe has closed or the new building manager is way too efficient and grinchy.
1 My favourite kind.
2 Nor am I being self-deprecating when I say I don't like being called an artist
3 Thank you Theo.
4 Thank you Melissa.
5 And the relevant objects start looking for me.
6 Although there is NO INTENTION at all to make any kind of comment or statement about the world via these pictures.