Jeanne van Heeswijk: Talking Trash - personal relationships with waste

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I have totally embraced the whole project, wholeheartedly, because of the integrity of the engagement with the community…it’s been true grassroots community involvement, and that can be seen in the work.

Jane Cush, Director, Goulburn Regional Art Gallery*

In April 2010, Dutch artist Jeanne van Heeswijk presented a new work for the C3West project, made in collaboration with artist Paul Sixta and the local community of Goulburn, and Liverpool, from September to December 2009. Environmental Services company Veolia was the business partner.

Jeanne’s project, Talking Trash – personal relationships with waste, looked at the different ways people try to end their relationship with wasting; drawn from 25 personal stories from households in Goulburn and Liverpool. A central idea or action was extracted from initial interviews and transformed into a short two-minute “video fiction”. The exhibition, at Goulburn Regional Gallery, presented these videos alongside an installation of photographic stills and personal objects gleaned from the participants.

Recruited as volunteers, the artist’s early research with participants from Goulburn and Liverpool took the form of interviews, or extended conversations about waste. Jeanne’s questions to the participants revealed disparate responses, from the practical and personal to the metaphorical, revealing an increasing awareness of waste (or wastefulness) and individual frustrations in considering the enormity of this problem in their lives.

The mini-clips were depictions of the rituals or actions that people undertake, some an attempt to counteract waste, others articulating the area of their life in which they waste the most. Often idiosyncratic or arbitrary, many responses reveal the surprising complexity of this issue; For Eva Murphy, hospitality is abundance; culturally she has been taught by her family that abundance is hospitality. In her mini clip, we see her preparing for a guest, unravelling a multitude of delights, individually wrapped biscuits, cakes and other treats, creating a mountain of plastic. Despite being a committed recycler, she has not yet become aware of the link between consumption and waste and doesn’t think of waste whilst she shops.

These mediations or rituals take a myriad of forms; some a conscious and successful effort to save the planet, others more arbitrary or fragmented.

Produced in association with the exhibition will be a series of publications; a series of illustrated postcards, whimsical and humorous, with ‘how to’ instructions based on these same narratives. These postcards have been collated into a booklet of 25 pages, and are accompanied by texts from MCA Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE and inaugural C3West Project Co-ordinator, Abigail Moncrieff.

Talking Trash – personal relationships with waste has since been included in the MCA group show, In The Balance: Art for a Changing World. Further, elements from the project were included in a retrospective of the artist at the Chabot Museum in 2011.

Artist: Jeanne van Heeswijk
Photography: Paul Sixta
Business partner: Veolia Environmental Services
Project Partner: Goulburn Regional Art Gallery

Other C3West Projects

Image: Waste and the City (detail), 2010, photographic wallpaper print, Image courtesy and © the artists
  • Jane Cush, Director, Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, launch of Talking Trash: Personal Relationships with Waste, Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, 14 April 2010.