A unique two-part exhibition is to use 30 days’ worth of the Science Museum’s waste to expose the beauty, value and volume of what we call ‘rubbish’. Led by acclaimed artist Joshua Sofaer, the exhibition is part of the museum’s Climate Changing programme.
From Monday 16 June visitors are invited to participate in the collection, sorting and documenting of one month’s worth of rubbish generated by the Science Museum’s visitors, staff, contractors and exhibition projects to create a growing visual archive of the things we throw away from day to day. During this first phase, rubbish will be diverted through a dedicated exhibition space to be photographed by Sofaer and his team of volunteers, before continuing on its usual journey to be processed for recycling or used to generate electricity.
Tracing the journey of the waste generated by the museum in phase one, phase two sees Sofaer inviting the rubbish back into the museum at different stages of processing for an eight-week exhibition examining the value of what we throw away in relation to what we keep.
With a focus on sustainability and reuse, The Rubbish Collection confronts the materiality of rubbish and highlights that the things we throw away do not disappear but are transformed. Through its elements of participation and visual arts, the exhibition invites visitors to reappraise their relationship with rubbish, while raising questions about ‘better’ or ‘worse’ ways of treating waste.
Artist Joshua Sofaer said: ‘Museums generally display items that have some special status, that are rare, or valuable. But in this project, I want to give the 'museum treatment' to the stuff it would normally throw away. I think it is brave of the Science Museum to allow this project to happen. Actually, I can't quite believe that they have! We will be able to see exactly what a giant museum throws out in an average month and learn something about what happens to it when it leaves the building. It's already been an extraordinary process learning more about the different waste streams. I would urge people to come and get stuck in and open up a bin bag. Remember: disposal is the last resort.’
Sarah Harvey, Project Curator, The Rubbish Collection, said: ‘At the Science Museum we often commission artists to give our visitors fresh and creative perspectives on the subjects we present. The notion of Science Museum visitors sorting through the Museum’s rubbish is in many ways quite absurd but Sofaer is playing with the conventions of what we do as a Museum – our role of collecting, researching and exhibiting precious and important objects – and exposing the intrinsic value and importance of ‘rubbish’ in a creative and unexpected way. Sofaer’s practice is very collaborative and he encourages the public to participate in the art with the aim of activating and inspiring people to look at things differently; in this case rubbish.’
The Rubbish Collection is part of the Science Museum’s Climate Changing programme – a series of events and exhibitions that support the museum’s Atmosphere gallery. The programme has been made possible by support from Principal Sponsors Shell and Siemens, Major Sponsor Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Major Funder the Garfield Weston Foundation, and with additional support from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Patrons of the Science Museum and members of the Founders Circle: Climate Changing programme: Accenture, Bayer and Barclays.
Artist Joshua Sofaer is centrally concerned with modes of collaboration and participation. Often with an irreverent use of humour, he plays with established forms of production, appropriating and reconfiguring the chat show, competition, lecture, or museum display. He acts as curator, producer or director of a broad range of projects, including large-scale events, intimate performances, and publications. He has had teams racing around London gathering rubbish for Scavengers at Tate Modern, built a Rubbish Library in Japan, directed a staging of Bach’s St Matthew Passion in Stockholm and spent 3 months in Brazil working with 'catadores' - human scavengers of rubbish. He was a winner of the first Bank of America CREATE Art Award and was the first Artist Fellow on the 2010/11 Clore Leadership Programme.