The beauty of rubbish

What does one month of rubbish from one institution look like? This is a question the Science Museum are striving to answer in their unique exhibition discovering the beauty, value and volume of rubbish

 Images: Katherine Leedale

Images: Katherine Leedale

Thirty days' worth of rubbish. Doesn't sound like a lot does it? But consider 30 days of rubbish discarded by a thriving museum and you'll soon realise that's a heck of a lot of bin bags. But the Science Museum aren't afraid of confronting their wastage and have been bold enough to members of the public rifle through it and help transform it into a beautiful exhibition entitled The Rubbish Collection, led by artist Joshua Sofaer. 

The exhibition happens in two phases. During the first phase, which began 16 June, members of the public were invited to participate 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 they throw away (even £40 in lost pennies) from day to day. During this first phase, rubbish was diverted through a dedicated exhibition space, photographed by Sofaer and his team of volunteers, before continuing on its usual journey to be processed for recycling or used to generate electricity. 

For the second phase, currently exhibiting, Sofaer invites the rubbish back into the museum at different stages of processing for an eight-week exhibition examining the value of what we throw away in relation to what we keep.

With a focus on sustainability and reuse, The Rubbish Collection confronts the materiality of rubbish and highlights that the things we throw away do not disappear but are transformed. The exhibition invites visitors to reappraise their relationship with rubbish, while raising questions about ‘better’ or ‘worse’ ways of treating waste.

Artist Joshua 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."

 Images: Katherine Leedale

Images: Katherine Leedale

The Rubbish Collection is currently on exhibit at The Science Museum until 14 September.

For more unique innovations in turning rubbish into things of beauty, read about artist Jason Taylor who finds wonder in the mundane during his challenge to make a new item every day for a year, in iPad issue 3