Started: 2019

Time/labour: ︎︎︎

Thanks to: Luke Bacon, Miška Mandić, Del Lumanta

environment // waste // redistribution // reuse // activism // institutional // critique // letters // installation // video


Image: Make or Break, Institutional Waste #1, 2020, installation view at Artspace, photo by Zan Wimberley.
INSTITUTIONAL WASTE is an ongoing investigation into waste processes in cultural institutions, and how this intersects with their complicated relationship with waged labour. The arts sector is often described as an ecosystem, suggesting that there are material and immaterial flows between institutions. Waste management is one way that these flows — or lack thereof — can be considered and critiqued. Temporary exhibitions, for example, generate significant waste: plasterboard, mdf, timber, artwork that has to be ‘de-valued’ before being disposed of. Rehoming this waste with smaller institutions or artist-run initiatives is one way to ‘reorganise the spreadsheet’ and support the rest of the sector, free up funds to pay artists a living wage and reduce landfill at a time of intensifying climate crisis. This project has many tentacles, with only the first of these having been explored.

Institutional Waste #1 was first presented on Gadigal land at Artspace for the 2019 NSW Visual Arts (Emerging) Fellowship. Proximity and sight-lines between Artspace and the Art Gallery of New South Wales informed an initial investigation of both institutions. Waste materials were gathered, and a freedom of information request was submitted to AGNSW to request CCTV footage of their landfill skipbin. The initial request for footage was refused, and a subsequent appeal saw the request granted and then refused again citing technical difficulties, lack of staffing and privacy reasons. AGNSW still has Make or Break’s hard drive.