Archive for Case 3: Plastic


by Tassos Lockbird

Today I went to the NYC Department of Health to speak with the Director of the Condoms & Materials Distribution Department. Along with having a really interesting conversation concerning various aspects of this initiative, Jennifer Medina -the Director- gave me something to bring to class and share! :)


macbar | plastic is a “femme fatale”; so beautiful, yet so bad

by Tassos Lockbird

last week a friend of mine took me to this nevertheless fun place that makes specifically mac and cheese, but many kinds. what is even more impressive is their takeaway packaging. so pretty, so shiny, so…useless. or…is it art? because underneath, it says “designed by Ran Lerner”! I don’t know, and I don’t even think it matters. what matters is that even though I have always played devil’s advocate and defended “plastic”, this time [it was too late to say no to the packaging when I saw it!], I was stunned. the amounts of plastic started building up…

NYC’s Festival of Ideas

I got a chance to go to the Festival Ideas this morning. Very cool local businesses + organizations, green projects, and workshops to check out/get involved with. As well, you can drop off your e-waste or food scraps for compost. One workshop that caught my attention was the Upcycle Art Workshop where you can learn how to turn plastic bottles into beautiful objects. I love the idea of “Upcycle”. And of course there was performance artist Edith Raw’s “White Trash” piece, walking around wearing a headpiece made of various plastics and a dress made of clear plastic garbage bags filled with trash. Here are some highlights from the festival:

packaged garbage

"white trash"

Truck Farm

Green NYC



by cindy

Finally watched this movie last night.  It is really great.

In its own way the film covers so many of the ideas that we have discussed in class over the semester: the practice of gleaning, the process by which waste policy can be formalized by outsiders, the contents of trash as a reflection of a culture’s ideas and values, trash as the great equalizer (the trash of the rich mixing with the trash of the poor), the social judgements projected upon those who process our garbage, etc.   It leaves the attentive viewer with a lot to think about on the topic of waste management without becoming a didactic work on the subject.

Of course the film is equally about the transformative power of art and the evolution of the artist through the process as well.

The narrative reminded a bit of the Oscar winning film “Born into Brothels”.   While uplifting on one hand, Born into Brothers had did have some problematics around the lens in which it was observed, ie: western white eye goes to Indian brothels, uplifts street kids through art, sells art to rich white people.)  Wasteland is a bit less problematic in this regard since the subjects are adults (less inherently exploitable) and because they are being observed by a native of their culture and background.   I appreciated that aspect of the film making as well.

It’s worth a watch for sure.


Just heard a brief interview with Susan Frankel, author of “plastic: a toxic love story” on WNYC – the takeaway on how to use/ live with plastic responsibly. (not a matter of paper or plastic bags at the market but reusable ones. ). Seems so easy but I still seem to end up with too many bags and too many small plastic containers. My plastic addiction was horrifyingly highlighted by my move last weekend. (actually this move has/is challenging all my recycling intentions and is forcing me to confront a life’s worth of possessions…paper,plastic, electronic, stuff/trash. ….)

Class 4.13: Manufactured Landscapes

Reminder! Manufactured Landscapes, a terrific documentary on photographer Edward Burtynsky’s work in China, will be screened in the classroom tomorrow (with Kasia’s help – thanks to Kasia). It will start at 6 and will last 90 minutes.

You’ll find the film powerfully segues from what Barthes called the stuff of alchemy into our fast-approaching conversations about e-waste (see e-waste team’s provocations for you below!). Also from your reading last week, here is Jeffrey Meikle on plastics and the information age: “Computer housings, electronics components, automobile interiors, and high-tech sports equipment – not brittle polystyrene toys – pervaded the experience of the 1980s generation… Despite an improving reputation, however, most people… identified the era not with plastic but with information, with devices for recording, storing, reproducing, and manipulating sounds, words, and images. Though physically sheltered by the built environment, people found their emotions and thoughts ever more simulated by immaterial experiences. Even the plastics that facilitated these synthetic experiences by means of film, tapes, discs, and coatings receded from view and from consciousness” (8).

Enjoy the film! Class will not be meeting 4.20 – please use the time for your case studies – and we will resume 4.27 with e-waste. I’ll be keeping up with online discussions and urban research from afar and will see everyone 4.27.

so much beauty in the world…a plastic bag

by cindy

and of course there is this scene in “American Beauty”…its actually THE scene of the movie in fact…where everything the story wants to tell us about what beauty means in the world around us is revealed through a movie about a plastic bag dancing in the wind: