1 Comment

Below is an archive of the making of this project.  One year of collected trash and recycling, transformed into a single work of art.
This video by Josh Bradley captures the essence of the project well.  Please excuse the preaching.

Finding Away, installed at Bumbershoot 2009 in Seattle, Washington. 

One year's worth of trash by Ari Derfel
Art work by Kuros Zahedi
photo by Lele Barnett
photo by Lele Barnett

This is the card for the  Seattle showing of Finding Away.....  It should be an amazing exhibit and will be opening September 4!

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.


 This was shot during Ari's visit - I am working on the 'mural' part of the piece, pictured in an earlier post as a charcoal sketch on the panels.  Thank you Josh for another amazing video!


Ladders are an important element in the work.  They symbolize the ascent of consciousness to a higher level.  The first three images are about the iconography associated with ladders.  The other images are of the making of ladders out of Ari's cardboard, white paper, and receipts. 
(photos by KZ and Steven Kennedy)

This image is from Robert Fludd's Utriusque cosmi historia, II, 1619, in the tradition of western alchemy.  The ladder leads from the world of matter to spirit.  Each rung represents a stage of development - see below.

This drawing depicts the seven chakras, with the last represented by the flaming crown of light (much like the sun in the above image).

The ladder is symbolically associated with the caduceus, which is the ladder upon which Hermes/Mercury, messenger of the gods, ascends and descends.  The snake glides along the earth, sheds its skin and renews itself and is therefore associated with change, renewal and healing - in the familiar image of the caduceus, above, snakes rise up the rod, representing the transformative life forces of mother earth.

Back in the studio, the cardboard is cut to size and taped together to make the rough skeleton form of the ladder.

Several layers of paper are applied with wheat paste.

After a couple of layers.


Here are some images of the transformation of paper.  This batch was mostly junk mail and other shiny paper.  Paper is soaked, boiled, blended, strained and mixed with powdered glass and wheat based wallpaper paste.  It is then formed.
Photos in this post by Sandra Loeffelmann.


Film by Josh Bradley.  We will be posting more of these...