Trans Trash

Wastepicker in Cambridge, MA in 2010.  Photo by P. Rey. Basurama.

Garbage is rapidly becoming a major topic of inquiry in urban society. Municipalities are keenly aware of the economic benefits of waste and citizens are becoming aware of the environmental need for recycling. Even so, most urban dwellers are still blind to what actually happens to their garbage once it is tossed into a trash bin.

The aim of the Trans Trash exhibition is to make waste cycles transparent to the public in an attempt to enable more personal social awareness and responsibility. Using Cambridge, MA as a region of focus and MIT as a hyper-local example, the works in the exhibition, which opened at MIT in September 2011 display information about local waste and the overlaps or tensions between the informal and formal waste management sectors.

It is our belief that the local scale is fundamental in enabling the opportunity to reflect on global waste processes. The exhibition showcased projects with varying approaches and formats, from local to national scale. In the end, the exhibit has both a physical and on-line presence.

To illustrate the experiences of women working in the recycling business in Cambridge, MA, CoLab’s Libby McDonald created a video installation that appeared on used television sets tossed out by a local electronics store. Featuring the personal accounts of Cambridge trash pickers, the short interviews highlight the tensions that exist between the informal and formal sector.


Libby McDonald