Beautiful Trash

Interview with ADRIAN ARIAS,
December 2010 Artist-in-Residence


When and where did you get the materials for your residency at the de Young?
I began to hunt for supplies a year ago. I asked my sister, who lives in southern California, to start saving the plastic she used (which is a fair amount). Plus, three of my friends who have restaurant and radio connections, which of course use a large amount of plastic. Over a nine-month period, they were able to collect enough plastic CDs, bowls, forks, etc. for the residency. During that time, I looked at them as my own currents, gathering trash just like Mother Nature, which uses currents to gather trash forming islands. All of the materials were cleaned thoroughly and, although the participants, like most humans, are guilty of consuming large amounts of plastic, we are able to not only recycle but reuse the plastic too!

Of course, after gathering such a large quantity of trash, I had a guilty moment myself when I had to buy the plastic bins and buckets which contain and transport the ‘Beautiful Trash.’

Aren’t you perpetuating the cycle of over‐consumption?
Well, this is when I have my bi‐polar moment. You see, I feel guilty buying it, but this is for a good purpose. When the average visitor walks onto the Gallery, I propose a hands‐on project for them to do. They must choose items to display in the trays as ready‐made works of art.

Visitors become very involved in the process and are able to create artwork of their own. Plus, touching the element and bonding to it on a certain level connects the visitor to the trash. As this happens, I explain the trash vortexes and the currents which create them, therefore educating those who are unaware. So in a way, I inform them of mother nature’s conscious creating these trash islands, and become aware of our own conscious in how we treat the planet.

Will you continue this project after your residency ends?
Of course! For now I am spreading the word about trash and it’s negative impact to the environment. However, I plan to create a series related to this about how the islands effect animals. This will be a long project, but necessary. For instance, one of my photographs shows just how integrated the trash is becoming to the surrounding life. The picture is of a bottle of bleach with shells and barnacles living on the rim of the bottle. The image strange because bleach is so toxic I cannot think of anything ‘living’ on a bottle of it. Plus, this complicates the idea of a cleanup, which includes scooping the trash out of the ocean. Now that the island is inhabited, we risk killing ocean life that survives on it. Also, I recently saw a photograph of a fish cut open and it had 17 pieces of plastic in its body. These kinds of images are essential to exposing the effects of the island and hopefully inspiring change. The Gulf Oil Spill really was another hit to mother nature. However, the public began to understand the true devestation of the spill after the image of a pelican drenched in oil surfaced. This bird, which looks almost sculptural, became a mascot for the cleanup project. We now need a mascot for the trash and plastic overwhelming the oceans. I plan on going to the islands next year to take photographs for this new series.

What piece of art are you working on now?
I am finishing a plastic/trash humanoid to present the idea of plastifying ourselves. Plastic is already covering our food, containing our beverages, and even in our oufits. It is a part of us, and I want to create a representation of that.

– Rebecca Crump, Public Programs

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