The Institute For Figuring’s Midden installation is on display in the TRASH exhibition at the New Children’s Museum, San Diego.
Exhibition Dates: October 15, 2011 – March 30, 2013
About the Midden Project
Every year humanity produces more than 100 million tons of plastic, of which it is estimated that 10% ends up in our oceans. Much of this debris accumulates in vast gyres including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass located north-east of Hawaii that now occupies an area twice the size of Texas and more than 30 meters deep. Plastic does not biodegrade, but breaks up into ever-finer particles which sink to the ocean floor. This synthetic “sand” will ultimately become embedded in the geological strata of our planet, recording ours definitively as the Plastic Age.
In early 2007, after learning about the Garbage Patch, Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring decided to start keeping all their domestic plastic trash. For the next four years – from February 2007 to February 2011 – the sisters washed, bagged and stored all the plastic they used in the course of their daily lives. The Midden is the accumulated result. This privately gathered set of debris represents a fraction of the average Westerner’s consumption of plastic, for during the collection period the Wertheims worked hard to reduce their intake. There is nothing like having to wash a pile of used containers and packages to make you start questioning what you bring home from the supermarket. Through painstakingly material, and almost loving, attendance to a problem we would all like to disappear, the Midden serves as a reflection on our daily choices. What exactly is rubbish? Who is responsible for it? And what are we going to do about it?
Previously exhibited at Track 16 Gallery (Santa Monica, 2009) and the Williamson Gallery at Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, 2011), The Midden has been specially recurated as an aerial installation for the TRASH exhibition at the New Children’s Museum.
The Midden installation is curated by Margaret and Christine Wertheim with assistant curator Anna Mayer.
The exhibition features plastic trash "Midden Monsters" by Evelyn Hardin, Clare O'Callaghan, David Orozco, Vanessa L. Garcia, Christine and Margaret Wertheim.
As a dynamic application of the Midden Project, in this exhibition the Institute For Figuring is working collaboratively with the New Children’s Museum to create a San Diego Midden. Over the course of the eighteen-month-long exhibition, visitors to the NCM will bring in items of their own plastic trash to be attached to a series of plastic poles. These “trees” will gradually flower with toxic fruit as the citizens of San Diego create a plastic trash “garden” of their own.
As the San Diego Midden evolves the IFF will continue to bring you updated photos and news about the exhibit and its surrounding community.
This unique, open-ended, participatory project is part of the Institute For Figuring’s ongoing series of scientific and environmental educational, community-based initiatives.
We challenge visitors to the exhibit to become aware of their own consumption patterns by keeping their personal plastic trash for a week. Or do it for a month, if you are brave. It is a revealing and sobering exercise to see how much you use. Even if, like us, you think you are being environmentally friendly, the chances are you will be amazed and horrified by the pile you create.