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A disposal company in San Francisco takes trash very seriously. For more than 15 years it has invited selected artists to create works of art out of the trash San Franciscans throw away. The artists are given full access to a studio near the company dump, paid a monthly stipend, and encouraged to create. The only stipulation: 100 percent of what they make has to come from the dump next door.
For the past four months, this trash transfer site at the SF Recycling and Disposal Company was the supply room for artists James Sansing and David Hevel.
They spent countless hours digging through garbage. And in the end, they collected 21,000 pounds of trash, and transformed it into something very different.
Artist James Sansing took apart machines and reassembled them, creating a mysterious, colorless world.
David Hevel took a slightly different approach. Extravagant monkeys express his ideas of what consumer culture has come to. "Basically if we're buying it, it's getting thrown away, and I was really overwhelmed by that process, seeing people's lives thrown away, perfectly good things thrown away," he said.
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"The products that are being built today are not built to last. They're designed with a certain life in mind with the manufacturer," Sansing said.
In 2007, the United States accumulated more than 250 million tons of trash. But at least some of it was salvaged here.
James Sansing says that at a recent exhibit of the two artists' work his most popular piece was made of thrown-away photos. "I can project stories into things I find in the landfill, like people can project stories into these pieces that I made. It was for me just about removing people," he said.
The weekend exhibit, hosted by the SF Recycling and Disposal Company, drew hundreds of people. While David Hevel says his work isn't political, it does have a message. "I'm not making political work. I'm more of an artist that holds up a mirror to society."
"My hope is that people walk away with an emotion," Sansing says, "they remember and maybe possibly they'll think twice before they throw something away."