Started: 2022

Time/labour: ︎︎︎

Thanks to: Carolyn McKenzie-Craig for assistance with screen printing.
Dr Monzur Imteaz at Swinburne for discussing his team’s research into plasterboard recycling.
Sam at REGYP for material safety data and advice.
The generous staff at IMA for their input and assistance.

environment // waste // redistribution // reuse // activism // institutional // critique // gypsum // installation // labour


Image: Make or Break, Institutional Waste #2, 2022, photo by Joe Ruckli.
INSTITUTIONAL WASTE #2 is a commission for the Institute of Modern Art Brisbane that undertakes a deep material investigation into the fabric of the gallery’s walls, seeking to find alternative pathways for the gyprock, timber and MDF that are cyclically sacrificed when temporary infrastructure is replaced.

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. The IMA’s core organisational practice—temporary exhibition making—generates waste that is ‘de-valued’ and sent to landfill. In response, Make or Break have set up a recycling-station-as-sculptural-installation built from exhibition waste, where the audience can participate in breaking down used gyprock sheeting into its constituent parts to be used in gardens as a soil improver and in papermaking.

Visitors are invited to engage deeply with this material through participating in the recycling process; to handle gypsum it and work with it, to imagine the long geological processes that create the mineral, and to appreciate the time embedded within it. What care do we owe a substance that has formed over a million years? How do we feel about wasting something that has taken millennia to form? By slowing down to consider these questions Make or Break hope our reappraisal of this single material may spark our willingness to find avenues for its reuse, and in turn spark our creativity to seize opportunities for redirecting other materials from waste.

This project was commissioned for An Alternative Economics curated by Tulleah Pearce at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Text by Tulleah Pearce.