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A Rubbish Idea

A new exhibition focuses on 30 days worth of rubbish. Picture: The Science Museum

What does one month of ‘rubbish’ from one institution look like? A new exhibition at the Science Museum aims to discover the beauty, value and volume of what we throw away.

The two-part exhibition is to use 30 days’ worth of the Science Museum’s waste to explore our concepts of ‘rubbish’. Led by artist Joshua Sofaer, the exhibition is part of the museum’s Climate Changing programme. From this week, visitors are invited to take part in the collection, sorting and documenting of one month’s worth of rubbish generated by the Science Museum’s visitors, staff, contractors and exhibition projects to create a growing visual archive of the things we throw away from day to day. 

Launched this week, which is National Recycling Week, in the first phase, rubbish will be diverted through a dedicated exhibition space to be photographed by Sofaer and his team of volunteers, before continuing on its usual journey to be processed for recycling or used to generate electricity. 

Visitors will be able to see what happens to the Science Museum's waste after it leaves the building. Picture: The Science Museum

Tracing the journey of the waste generated by the museum in phase one, phase two sees Sofaer inviting the rubbish back into the museum at different stages of processing for an eight-week exhibition examining the value of what we throw away and what we keep.

Sofaer said: “Museums generally display items that have some special status, that are rare, or valuable. But in this project, I want to give the 'museum treatment' to the stuff it would normally throw away. 

“We will be able to see exactly what a giant museum throws out in an average month and learn something about what happens to it when it leaves the building. It's already been an extraordinary process learning more about the different waste streams. I would urge people to come and get stuck in and open up a bin bag. Remember: disposal is the last resort.”

Sarah Harvey, project curator added: “At the Science Museum we often commission artists to give our visitors fresh and creative perspectives on the subjects we present. The notion of Science Museum visitors sorting through the museum’s rubbish is in many ways quite absurd but Sofaer is playing with the conventions of what we do as a museum – our role of collecting, researching and exhibiting precious and important objects – and exposing the intrinsic value and importance of ‘rubbish’ in a creative and unexpected way.”

The free exhibition runs until September 14.

By Lucy

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