neil cummings

Trash into Treasure

As part of Critical Practice I participating in......... One Person's Trash in Another's Treasure

WasteWhen:10am Monday, 15th - 5pm Tuesday 16th April
Where: Chelsea College of Arts

Folke Köbberling, working with Martin Kaltwasser has been exploring alternatives to consumerist ideology since 1998, through structural interventions, artistic projects, and actions.

The artists typically occupy public spaces with structures built from materials liberated from waste streams, or existing “urban resources”. Thrown-away, dumped, abandoned or even rubbish materials are turned into beautiful structures; bridges, pavilions, roofs and even theatres.

In this two-day masterclass led by Folke with Critical Practice, Chelsea College of Art and Design will become both the resource and the site for the collaboratively developed intervention.

The Masterclass is part of Critical Practice's ongoing research into systems of evaluation, and waste.

More information Folke Köbberling and Martin Kaltwasser


Trash is Treasure

10am Monday, 15th April 2013

Folke gave an introduction to her practice with Martin Kaltwasser followed by a wider discussion on art practices, ethics and waste. Blockbuster exhibitions, Trade and art fairs, generate an astonishing amount of waste...

We then walked the site at Chelsea College of Art and Design looking at waste streams - the skip used to dump unwanted artworks, trashed exhibition making stuff, unloved things and materials - and discussed what to make/ what services were missing on the site.

We talked about the lack of public infrastructure in the Parade Ground, the vast cobble-stone desert at the heart of the campus.

.........Critical Practice has a longstanding interest in public goods, spaces, services and knowledge, and a track record of producing original participatory events. Like Parade, which explored the disagreeable, contentious, exhilarating, messy, efficient, live, improvisatory and provisional nature of Being in Public.

We walked over to our neighbours, Tate Britain. They are undertaking a major extension and dispose of unwanted materials with skips too.

They were very friendly and helpful.

We decided to scavenge materials and reconvene after lunch in the Parade Ground, and then decide what to make......

Trash is Treasure

At 2pm, after sifting through our assembled gleanings, and noting the padlocked cafe furniture, the in-situ stone seating, we decided - after much discussion around 'green' aesthetics, ethics, overproduction, waste, exchange and the possibility of appointing a waste manager (like Health and Safety but more productive) - to make some public tables and benches. 

In self-assembled groups we set about inventing seating from waste.

Things were repurposed, pallets were broken down for material and components, two huge MDF room dividers were prised open to reveal a beautiful stainless steel frame inside.

Even better, when turned upside-down the frame was a perfect height for a table to the extant stone-seating. Creative destruction unleashed a torrent of energy and enthusiasm, the MDF cladding was stripped.

At 5pm, we called it a day.

Trash is Treasure

10am Tuesday, 16th April 2013

We reconvened, and set about making the table-tops and finishing the benches.

Classes emerged in sawing, sanding and the safe use of a jigsaw. Experiences were shared, expertise exchanged and we ate lunch together off the first table finished.

There were some interesting clashes; at times a 'trash' aesthetic dominated the efficient use of found materials, and at others, genders divided.

At 2pm, more sawing, screwing, sanding, and then in a blur it was done.

We had five upcycled public benches, and two huge tables collaboratively developed.

The sun came out, we positioned the new furniture, returned unused materials to the waste streams and opened some wine.

We christened the furniture (yes wine was spilt) and reflected on the workshop - there is a lot to be learned from making things, and even more, by making things together. Two intense and inspiring days, thank you Folke.

Trash is Treasure

 24th April 2013 Spring has arrived in London, the new public furniture survives, even thrives. They're in constant use by students and passers-by alike


See more images from the workshop







The project is related to the analogue bug-fixwaste and partly inspired #TransActing


51.4902, -0.1283

Chelsea College of Arts
16 John Islip Street
United Kingdom

Submitted by neil on