Drop Off Your Recycling, Pick Up Some New Idea

This summer, Raven Recycling will be piloting a series of artist residencies called Diversions. Five artists will set up two-week studios near the textile recycling boxes in the depot, or outside in tents. They will undertake projects that make use of materials they are familiar working with and that are abundant at Raven.

While the projects may divert some material from the waste stream, for a little while, we don’t anticipate that individual artist projects will be able to make the changes that need to happen at a systemic level. Heather Ashthorn, Raven’s executive director, explained, “The intent is to divert our thinking along new pathways. Sometimes we need artists to help us see and know differently.”

In addition to the two-week residency, artists will offer a Sunday workshop, at the depot, where participants can work with recycled materials directly under the imaginative direction of each artist, benefitting from the skills they’ve developed, over the years, learning with and from these materials.

Each artist will leave some aspect of their work installed at Raven, so that there will be an accumulation of installations to check out there, over the summer.

On the final Fridays of each residency, Raven will host an artist talk and panel discussion where the public can view the artwork and hear the artist talk about it. Each artist will invite an Indigenous Elder to take part in this discussion. The idea of not wasting things is something you hear about a lot if you listen to people talk about First Nations traditional values. Even in settler culture, I know my own great-grandma wasted a lot less than people do today.

Raven Recycling staff will also take part in the discussion. They will provide education on the current situation for managing the materials being used by the artists. Each material has a different destination and process for recycling, and this is something that people who drop their non-refundables off at Raven often ask about and that Raven sometimes has a hard time communicating to the public about. This is a great opportunity for us all to learn together.

This is important because the problem of the way our culture deals with material doesn’t go away when we drop it in the recycling bin. The path to re-use or recycle is littered with complications, market conditions for materials, the cost of transportation and so on. When we drive away, feeling all light and redeemed after tossing our plastics and paper, it’s partly because we don’t consider or don’t have a full understanding of what happens next. “Recycling is complicated,” observed Ashthorn, “and we could use more imagination to help us rethink the tangled way we use materials.”

These residencies will invite you to slow down, when you’re dropping off your recycling, and think a little more about what role your actions play, within our contemporary culture, in the use of materials. We hope that approaching these problems from new angles—diversions from the paths we are currently on—will create a place where we can imagine better ways together.

There’s a place for you in this conversation.

Janet Patterson will be in residence April 25–May 8. She was stunned when she discovered that the average Canadian buys 70 pieces of clothing a year. She will spend her time (in the depot) dressing mannequins in 70 pieces of clothing drawn from textiles from the red bins at the depot, or from clothing destined for those bins. She invites visitors to bring washed textiles to add to her project. Participants in her workshop will collectively dress a mannequin in these textiles, and one of the mannequins will appear in an exhibition on textile recycling, for the month of May, at the Yukon Energy Community Gallery at the Yukon Arts Centre, as part of Patterson’s tenure as an emerging curator for that gallery.

Patterson scours thrift stores and buy-and-sell pages in her wider art practice. She enjoys using materials that have already had a life in the world, that add their own stories to her assemblages, adding as little new materials as possible.

Heidi Marion plans to recontextualize the post-consumer materials that Raven accepts, rather than making them into something else. She wants “to be careful to not promote the idea that reusing recycled material is an effective way to mitigate the consequences of our waste production.” Among other things, she plans to construct “beautiful sets, to lovingly photograph post-consumer objects, creating a small gallery of portraits. Visitors will participate by photographing, printing, framing and giving titles to their choice of a selection of post-consumer objects,” while she shares ideas around composition in art. Marion will be at the depot May 16–27.

The artistic team of Dennis Shorty and Jennifer Froehling, from Ross River, will work with copper from Raven’s Scrap Metal program, as well as with other materials at Raven June 1-15. They are “very excited to be a part of this project because this is our future.” Shorty is a Kaska Dene artist, language speaker and knowledge keeper. He plans to honour insects in the work he creates at Raven, creating “a collection of jewellery dedicated to all the small insects, with that I want to bring attention to their importance for our planet that we all share.” He plans to pass on teachings about “the respect we all have to have for our planet and all that is living on it,” encouraging people to take only what they need and be mindful of what they take. During his Sunday workshop, participants will make a bracelet or ring from scrap metal at Raven.

Nicole Bauberger will take her turn at the depot with her kiln July 4–15. Her practice, recently, has made extensive use of pre-used cardboard, textiles, bike parts, plastics and glass, in a variety of contexts, including the Dalton Trail Gallery and Monster Parades. She’s leaving some of her options open, in order to make something that will pertain to new developments, in recycling and recycling issues, in the Yukon. For example, there are regulation changes afoot that may change the way Raven is involved in paper and plastic recycling, soon. In addition to this, inspired by what she learned about glass fusing, with Jeanine Baker, she’s envisioning a series of ravens, in flight, in a gradated series of tints of broken and fused bottle glass, for the high window in the bottle depot. For her Sunday workshop, she imagines making puppets and puppet shows, with families, using materials from the cardboard and plastic recycling streams.

Finally, Helen O’Connor will work with paper at the depot July 18–29. She plans to use discarded paper and pages from discarded, damaged books, to create sculptural garments. She will invite her visitors, during the residency, to collaborate with her in making these, especially in forming the paper cones you see in these images. Helen has “concern for the overconsumption and waste of paper products.” New paper products are often produced through unsustainable practices, such as clearcutting trees. As well, the use of harsh chemicals in the processing can lead to contamination of waterways and the environment. Using plant fibres, such as hemp, in combination with recycled paper, creates a more-ethical and -sustainable product. Content from text and original context of the papers brings interesting content to the work. For her Sunday workshop, participants will learn to make handmade recycled paper by using blenders, screens, discarded paper and plant fibres. 

Funding from the Yukon Arts Fund, as well as from Raven Recycling’s Zero Waste Yukon program, help to support these residencies.

Please contact Megan McLeod, [email protected], for more information, and please watch out for calls to register for the workshops.

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