Category Archives: exhibits

America Recycles Day Roundup

recycle-logoToday is America Recycles Day, so I am popping in late with a few related links to interviews on the subject.

Time magazine’s feature on the history of recycling, featuring interviews with Susan Strasser, Bartow Elmore, and me.

BBC’s The Compass 3-part show from earlier this year on “The History of Wastefulness” featuring interviews with Kathryn Kellogg, Veena Sahajwalla, Agnes Sandras, Eiko Maruko, Gay Hawkins, and me.

A piece I wrote for Process: A Blog for American History a couple of years ago based on my book Cash for Your Trash: Scrap Recycling in America (Rutgers UP, 2005).

A piece I wrote for Resource Recycling Magazine a couple of years ago based on my book Aluminum Upcycled: Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective (Johns Hopkins UP, 2017).

The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s current exhibition “Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling,” on display now through April 2020. I was one of the advisors on this exhibition and will speak at the Museum in February.

“A grammar built with rocks” exhibit in Los Angeles Oct 13-Dec 22, 2018.

A_grammar_built_with_rocks“A grammar built with rocks” is an exhibit by Marwa Arsanios, Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz, Shannon Ebner, and Park McArthur that includes text from my book Clean and White. It opens in Los Angeles October 13.

A grammar built with rocks presents artistic practices that trace the racialized and gendered relationship between bodies and land, and question narratives of socioecological crisis that contribute to the displacement and erasure of people and collective formations. Through a two-part group exhibition, public programing, and publication, the project aims to think with the land—materially and relationally—in order to unpack and historicize notions of waste and contamination as they relate to the politics of access, property, and the violence of land allotment. Together, the featured works explore how the materiality of land permeates our identities and representational structures, and simultaneously molds the body.

The project appropriates its title from Édouard Glissant’s writings, as it looks to the ways in which the landscape contains, unfolds, and narrates its own history. It searches for traceable fissures within contested sites, as an aftermath of violence and altering states of upheaval. The exhibition at Human Resources considers the material, psychic, and social relations that constitute place as asite of knowledge production, and the “below”(below-ground, below-surface) as emblematic of both resistance and retreat. Together, the works and programs expose the violence inherent in geographic processes (of territorialization, privatization, and urban renewal) and offer artistic methodologies (of documentation, performance, and embodied archival practices) that surface buried histories and reorient perspectives to understand land as a bearer of relationships, resilience, and memory. The exhibition at ONE Archives at the USC Libraries extends this inquiry to center on the interrelation between the body and place, exploring how discourses of value and waste (through motifs of the toxic, the disposable, the contaminant) influence individual and collective spatial agency within the landscape, the institution,the state).

A grammar built with rocks began with research into the 1950s history of the Chavez Ravine evictions, and expanded with the following questions: How does unearthing soil, sediments, remnants, and buried life-forms open up space for concealed voices and histories, and reveal interconnected systems of power and violence on people and place? What does thinking geography relationally rather than territorially look like? How do meta-narratives of development, modernization, and crisis contribute to practices of dispossession?

The opening reception is Saturday, October 13 from 5-8pm in the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries (909 West Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90007). For more information, including the publication containing my text, see the exhibit website.

“Destroy, She Said: Decay, Dissolution, and the Anticipatory” March 7 at the Boiler

I’ll talk trash (and decay) with a few of my Pratt colleagues on Saturday. Details below.


 Destroy, She Said
Decay, Dissolution, and the Anticipatory

Readings, performances, and exhibition
Ethan Spigland, Saul Anton, Ira Livingston, Thom Donovan, Melissa Buzzeo, Carl Zimring, May Joseph, Julie Patton, Laura Elrick, and others

March 7, 2015
The Boiler (191 N. 14th St. Brooklyn), 5:30-7:30pm

An exhibition, along with an evening of short readings, performances, demonstrations on the theme of aesthetic, ecological, deliberate, and incidental destruction, decay, and dissolution. Open to the public.

Saturday’s program follows Friday’s opening reception.

Kelly Larsen’s “Beached” Opens at Pratt March 24

Kelly Larsen is completing his MFA at Pratt.  A few weeks ago, he reached out on Freecycle for plastics to complete this work, and my wife Jen got in touch.  As this piece is directly relevant to my concerns, I am happy to spread the word.


beached: MFA Exhibition
March 24 – March 28
Opening Reception: Monday, March 24, 6:00 – 10:00 pm
Pratt Institute Brooklyn Campus
200 Willoughby Avenue
Juliana Curran Terian Design Center
Steuben Gallery
Clinton-Washington stop on the G train

kLarsen_gutsThere is a growing landscape of discarded plastic. In many urban cities this accumulation of plastic, particularly bottles, gets picked through and collected by Canners, who then sell the materials back to the manufacturer. This garbage picking economic system not only sustains their life but also the environment, by slowing the buildup of those materials into mountains or becoming swirling islands.

A plastic redemption organization in Brooklyn, Sure We Can, Inc., promotes this practice and seeks to make it more accessible. According to their website, “The overall goal of Sure We Can is to remove some of the current hardships that accompany canning; both for those who already use it as a means of survival and for those who would like to do so. Sure We Can was founded in 2007 by Canners themselves…” and “supports the city’s only licensed, not-for-profit, homeless-friendly redemption center.”

“beached” was made possible in part by the efforts of these Canners who collected the materials that comprise the guts of this project. Still, much of this plastic cannot be sold back to manufacturers, and is inevitably condemned to waste.

Please join me for a critical reflection on the practice of canning and other alternative economies that might combat the rapid accumulation of what we praise as convenient.

Kelly Larsen
Pratt MFA Candidate

Presenting the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Loop Value: The How Much Does It Cost? Shop

One aspect of sustainability is assessing the real costs of consumption, be it of gasoline, computers, food, or any number of consumer products. With that in mind, the Chicago Architecture Foundation is currently running an exhibition about the real costs of our goods and services.

Your next hairdryer will cost you $291. Each time you drive, you pay an extra $2.28 per gallon of gas. Your bottled water costs 2,000 times the price of tap water. Do we understand the value of the things we buy and how profoundly our purchases shape the future of our cities?

The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) [has in] its downtown storefront gallery a unique exhibition, Loop Value: The How Much Does It Cost? Shop, exposing how our buying decisions determine the vitality of the environments we inhabit. The exhibition is designed as a pop-up store and takes visitors on a shopping trip through more than a dozen departments. In each, “shoppers” will discover the hidden cost of everyday products while learning how personal values determine the health of our communities. This exhibition is free and located in the ArcelorMittal CitySpace Gallery in the historic Santa Fe Building.

“This one-of-a-kind exhibition provides visitors with a unique sensory experience as it encourages them to consider if future generations will be able to enjoy Chicago as much as we do,” said Ingrid Haftel, associate curator for How Much Does It Cost?

Whether high or low, price tags hide more than they reveal. How Much Does It Cost? contrasts sticker price with the environmental, social and economic costs that individuals and communities really pay. The exhibition revolves around how individuals and communities use energy, water, land, transportation and how they construct the meanings of livability and sustainability.

“While shopping in departments ranging from Home Improvement to Pets, visitors will discover amazing facts and stories and find that each of us can make a difference,” said Gregory Dreicer, vice president of exhibitions at CAF. “How Much Does It Cost? encourages people to ask themselves: ‘what am I willing to pay for livable communities. . . for myself, my family and my kids?’”

In “departments” Gardening, Electronics and Shoes, How Much Does It Cost? visitors will reflect on their core values as well as the contents of their wallets. They’ll find they pay more than they thought. Browse Electronics and discover that a $21 hair dryer really costs $291 over 10 years to operate. Shop for Chicago souvenirs and consider how changing priorities determine the value of the city’s buildings—to the tune of millions of dollars.

The How Much Does It Cost? Shop reveals hidden value, too. Visitors discover how one degree on their thermostat reduces pollution and puts cash in their pocket. They’ll find out how their garden can help save money while protecting drinking water. In Movies, they’ll note shocking conditions that almost no one wants to confront.

Loop Value: The How Much Does It Cost? Shop [is open] in the ArcelorMittal CitySpace Gallery at CAF’s main office in the Santa Fe building at 224 South Michigan Ave. It is made possible through the generous support of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Illinois Sustainable Education Project (I-StEP), the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and Illinois American Water.

For more information visit See interviews and videos pertaining to this exhibition on CAF’s Roosevelt University Sustainability Studies Professor Mike Bryson and I served on the exhibition’s advisory board, and we taped (respectively) videos on the Chicago River and cellphones to go alongside several other videos available at the CAF’s site.  WLS-TV Channel 7’s Hosea Sanders visited the exhibit and you can see his report here.