From now until March 11, the usually tony Galleries at Moore College of Art and Design are going to get "trashed" as Northeast Philly’s Revolution Recovery construction waste recycling center and its RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency) program set up shop along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with the "Filthy Rich — Projects Made Possible by the Waste Stream" exhibition.
While RAIR directors like Billy Blaise Dufala and Lucia Thome bring reused instruments, sculptural objects and video performance works to exhibit at the college, Moore students in its design and fashion departments have visited RAIR in order to glean inspiration, find junk and create their own works for Moore’s walls, floors and couture runways — all reflecting the emergence of two prevailing themes: site as medium and material as medium.
Gabrielle Lavin Suzenski, acting director of the Galleries at Moore, believes that for her and the college, a vision of sustainability and a goal to repurpose refuse for the sake of art happened simultaneously.
“I had been aware of, and interested in, RAIR’s work, specifically regarding Dufala’s involvement there as we worked with him years ago,” says Suzenski. “Now, RAIR is reaching new audiences through PEW- funded projects and I knew the timing was right to approach them about a collaborative exhibition,” says Suzenski.
With that, Moore will revisit some of RAIR’s greatest hits such as its junk music collaboration with Philly opera singer Martha McDonald and installation artist Theo Mullen through video presentations and on-site works.
“The exhibition is a multisensory experience, one we hope visitors revisit more than once,” Suzenski adds.“We’ve plastered our walls with images of waste piles littered with colorful construction materials to give a sense of immense scale."
And what can visitors expect to see? Suzenski fills us in:
“There’s ambient sound sources alongside a repurposed piano covered in OSB and a 14-foot-long quilt of 2,000 found plastic and silk flowers. There’s an old canoe hanging from the ceiling; a stack of old radios piled high, paying tribute to the past. [RAIR directors] Billy and Lucia even replicated RAIR’s offices with endless ephemera they’ve amassed as decorations in their working space over the seven years they’ve been in business. It’s really an immersive space that begs viewers to look more closely at every object and to consider each detail, to think about its life and consider how what once was a piece of trash made this transformation into a work of art.”
Challenging one’s perception of what trashy fashion can truly be, students at The U School (through Moore College and RAIR) will present their takes on wearable art made from recycled materials in a "trashion show" March 9 at U School High School Auditorium, 2000 N. Seventh St. Drawing from recyclables provided by RAIR, students worked collaboratively with, and independently from, Moore College’s fashion design department.
“We preselected refuse materials from our site, plastic and fabric stuff that we found, and presented it to Moore for their collaboration with the students,” said RAIR’s Thome. “We’re super excited about that show and the entirety of 'Filthy Rich,' as we haven’t had an exhibition such as this in an outside space, where we showcase RAIR’s artists work. We wanted to represent the site, so this is fun.”
Suzenski also hopes that the "Filthy Rich" show promotes RAIR’s organizational philosophy and truly demonstrates how partnerships can be the driving force behind sound resource management and successful implementation across all sectors. “It’s not just about the art, it’s a about a way of living,” she concludes.