Recycle Conference Room 1990
I was invited to create an installation about urban garbage and recycling for the Municipal Art Society in New York City. I collected 12 discarded and broken chairs and a table. I used the defects in the chairs as positive resources. I repaired the furniture using common materials. Auto body putty strengthens loose joints, a pipe clamp repairs a broken leg, a cardboard box replaces two missing legs, another cardboard box creates a lamp shade for a floor lamp made of stacked jars. I repainted the furniture with a faux mahogany finish and they became a matching set. Elegant from afar but on closer inspection repaired and finished in the ways of a basement repair shop.
The following was the original proposal for this installation:
I am going to build an office using old, discarded, broken, dirty furniture that I will “repair”, so that the repair is more interesting or at least stronger than the original.
This office will be a metaphor for the mind, complete with faded old memories that have been brought down from the mental attic and reused, fixed, layered, repaired and ready to take on new experiences and tasks.
This work will look like the work of a fanatic, obsessive basement tinkerer who never throws out anything and finds a new use, a misuse, for that which once had another life.
There will be elements of Yankee ingenuity or thriftiness and also a sense that once an experience is registered it never disappears but fades and occasionally, through a dream or a smell, is brought back to the surface (down from the attic) as clear as its original.
I like the idea that things stored in the attic are brought down to the basement for cleaning and repair and returned to the house.
The mind wanders. Attic objects from different times are juxtaposed together creating new and present experiences.
In painting this is called pentimento. In western painting pasts are covered up with gesso, but they manage to reappear at some future time, anyway.
We change, the objects around us change.
Recycle doesn’t appear in Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary.