The Afterlife of Stuff
In 2013 I was commissioned by the AVV waste company to produce a photographic collage for their new lecture hall. I was allowed to wander freely around their waste sorting, incineration and recycling plants
and was overwhelmed by the majestic beauty and poetry of the waste sorting and recycling process, a herculean task executed with a mind-boggling lightness of touch.
I was very inspired by the waste sorting plant in Harken, AVV's miljøanlæg, where waste is sorted into monumental piles of the same basic materials; glass, wood, tree roots, metal,
plastic, in an astonishingly beautiful natural setting. It struck me that this was an almost utopian vision of where waste could end its days, not dumped into a landfill as wasted
resources, but rather as ordered layers of materials stripped down into their elemental nature ready for their next round of use, each material treated with respect and dignity and accorded value.
At a time when our production and disposal of waste appears to have assumed catastrophic proportions, the afterlife of the object and its impact on our environment has come increasingly
into focus. For the composition, I borrowed from traditional religious iconography imagining the hereafter, themes such as the Day of Judgment, when Christ returns to Earth to judge
the souls of the living and the dead. The bottom layer represents a kind of death, the earthly plane, where the individual elements are discarded for
recycling or incineration. The spirits of individual items can be seen floating through the central layer of sky and cloud. Above this, there is a layer
of waste waiting to ascend to the "heavenly sphere" at the top, a return to nature. The golden claw hangs poised to pluck out items destined for the flames,
but unlike the souls of the damned, these are also resources that are used to generate heat.