Justine Roberts, Principal
I've noticed a number of artists lately who work with everyday materials and reinvent them into decidedly unusual or unexpected forms. I've written about this before and I continue to wonder at what is driving this phenomenon now. It may be that this idea of reinvention is fueled by thrift in an age of tight economics. Or it may be a reaction to the abundance of *stuff* in our consumer culture. Or maybe its about wanting to reshape the world to one's own vision of it - taking the raw materials of our environment and recombining, reimagining, and recreating them into a personalized version of that world. This last point of view requires you to approach post-its, crayons, pencils, and t-shirts (just for instance) as raw materials. I'm not an artist myself so its hard for me to know but all of these projects fascinate and intrigue me. They make "being an artist" more accessible, and at the same time I appreciate how different artists are from me. I just don't look at pencils and think "what if I carved the graphite instead of drawing with it?" Its amazing to me.
And of course the idea of reuse and recycling a product into something else when its useful life is over is not exactly new. In my grandparent's lives of course the old clothes were recycled into quilts, and the old quilts into rag rugs. But a new generation of DIYers, a host of programs for kids emphasizing invention (By Kids For Kids and Design Squad are two of my favorites), and an increasing number of gallery shows featuring reinterpreted objects seems to be coalescing into something of a movement. These folks are not strictly reusing old things, or things that have outlived their usefulness. That is why for me this trend is a cross between art and creative problem solving. It seems a matter of curiosity, rather than necessity, but it also opens up a very large and inspiring "WHAT IF?" that carries over into other realms, other problems, other disciplines.
I for one am very excited about this. And I think that museums are in an incredible position to take advantage of popular interest as well as an increasing understanding of the educational value of these experiments. So in that spirit - here are a few links to some cool projects. We'd love to see any others that you have been collecting! And if your museum has been experimenting with exhibits that engage visitors in reinventing with everyday materials we'd be curious to know how its going. Do visitors get it?
Post-It's competition for billboard sized artwork made from its office products
T-shirts as pixels
Crayons - the quintessential child's marking tool reinterpreted
Using pencils as raw material
Carving pencils into sculptures