This project was about finding the secrets and stories hidden in the environment. The process was simple: Collect any written piece of text which I found on the street. Note its location and date and then file it. What followed was a curative process whereby I would try to make something interesting of the things which I found. Post-it notes were grouped together for their aesthetic cohesiveness; a page which was torn up was re assembled on the wall; a prescription was framed and hung like an artifact. You might call it contemporary archaeology. There was a rule that it had to be things written by an individual; nothing collated by machines, if only to stop me filling up all my folders with receipts, but other than this everything was allowed.
I fell a little bit in love with the sonderous experience of seeing these little moments of other peoples' lives and puzzling about the whats and whys of how these things came to be written. Who was the person who took the drug diary from the clinic, making one entry of Methadone before discarding or losing it? Why did someone print out a full colour picture of a baby panda (?) snuffling the camera?
These very important questions aside, I should say something about what this collection was about. I wanted to show how much information surrounds us if we are willing to look for it. I was struck by the relative value of some of this information. The prescription, for example, included the patients address and information about the treatment which they required. For the purposes of perhaps a criminal it was functionally a note saying "there is an extremely vulnerable person living at this address." Perhaps I have been playing too many video games. Nevertheless, now that we are so plugged in to the big pile of human knowledge, it is easy to forget the abundance of other sets of information available to us, and how this information might be useful in different ways.
People who I asked about this project were struck by how it made them think of their own paper trail behind them, and seemed quite chilled. I wondered why i hadn't considered this. Perhaps i am more focused on what I can do to the world than what it might do to me.
The second half of this project was an exploration of the more practical usefulness of the material of the world. Up-cycling projects are nothing new, and at the start my approach to this was more exploitative than anything. Later it became about exploring the value of things. I could make a table out of things which I found in skips and on the street, but the time it took me to find these free things and make them into something useful has a value too, which offsets the worthiness of the whole exercise. The search for value costs time, and this time has an opportunity cost and a running cost. The opportunity cost defined by how valuable your time is, and the running cost is your cost of living, both set in the context of the economy in which you exist. This is all very complicated, but it draws attention the fact that living in a top end economy means that scavenging is, in some ways, more expensive than just buying and throwing away. On top of this the immediate quality of the things you buy to throw away will be higher than something you could cobble together from palettes and string, even if the thing that you make is more durable. This will not always be the case. When the bombs fall or Europe finally gets sick of our nonsense or the whole system of our economy collapses the equation will change, but until then up-cycling in this country will always be struggling against this reality.
I would not say that this work engaged with this directly in its presentation. I wanted to get a feel for the quantity of work involved in constructing each piece, but I felt it would be more resonant with the Found Information work to have my curation and commentary focus on the value of these things after they had been created, reclaimed or restored.