On December 29, 2007 only a handful of people knew about Ari Derfel’s project of saving every single piece of trash and recycling he produced for an entire year. On December 30th the San Francisco Chronicle printed a story about it on the cover of their Bay Area section. A few hours later the Associated Press picked it up and by that night a worldwide conversation had begun.

Within the first forty-eight hours 150,000 visited Ari’s blog. They asked questions, applauded his efforts, criticized him, called him names – and most of all – they engaged each other. Ari’s simple meditation became the subject of a global conversation about consumerism, waste, recycling, self-awareness, and our individual and collective impact on the earth.

Saving his trash and recycling for an entire year was a powerful experience:
“It gave me intimate, focused insight into aspects of myself I thought I had known, and allowed me to discover myself more deeply.”

Ari did not do it to make a public statement.

“I did it to challenge myself – to change unconscious habit patterns and behaviors. Saving my trash and recycling was an active way to observe closely what I ate, how I spent money, what I did with my time. It was a visual diary, an objective, material account of a year of life.”

Ari wanted to Find Away – the elusive place where we discard what we no longer think is useful. More than just trash and recycling, there are many things we discard in our lives without paying close attention – emotions, pain, relationships, jobs, family….

Ultimately, Ari wanted to Find A Way to grow, to evolve, to change habits that are self destructive and damaging to our planet and the people who inhabit it.

Now, nearly two years later, the evolving power of this project can be experienced through the remarkable work of Kuros Zahedi, the man who has transformed Ari Derfel’s year of trash and recycling into a visionary piece of art.

When Ari’s “waste” was handed over to Kuros, there were infinite possiblities and directions he could have gone. He lived with it for a long time, spoke with Ari, looked through every bit, counted it, weighed it, and thought. He wrote and sketched countless ideas.  Ari and Kuros had agreed that every bit would be used - plastic wrappers, pounds of glass, old broken headphones, crumpled up aluminum foil and piles of paper - transforming this into a work of art presented a fascinating artistic challenge. 

“As the material was prepared, it was clearly a window into the life of Ari as an individual personality, but then the paper, plastic, metal and glass also began to tell tales of their physical histories, revealing a complex nexus of civilization into which Ari, myself and everyone I know is knit.  Where did this material come from?  Where is it going?  We normally designate trash as the lowest of low and throw it away, but Ari’s decision to find away for a whole year allowed me the opportunity to explore the powerful symbolism of turning it into a work of art.” 

The trash was laboriously and totally transformed.  It was crushed, cut, ground, pulped and reformed into a metaphoric narrative of our true potential.  A host of human figures emerge from a menacing heap of trash, carrying armloads of waste to a dynamic and hopeful mural they are creating.  They are humanity, working together, and Finding A Way to a beautiful world.

 


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