If Art is about creativity, imagination and typically exists in a visual form, then what kind of Art is Dumpster Archeology? I contend it is a new Art medium that defies logic, transcends reality and cuts deeply to the bone of being human. A storytelling experience that operates more like a rabbit hole, than a concrete physical medium.
The first Dumpster Archeology project began in the spring of 2016 and featured the history of a haunted Mansion at 2323 Lafayette Dr.
Showcasing all the discoveries at a local arts/craft festival called Strange Folk Festival in October of 2016. Articles, a website, a ted-x talk and short film also came from the strange story
Dumpster Archeology was born with a massive framework that would grow with each new discovery.
Just as those Photographers, Historians, Archaeologists and Anthropologists in the pages of National Geographic, spin their imaginative stories based on real life exploring, research and adventure, Dumpster Archeology treads the same waters and gives us Stories from Trash. True tales about real people, sometimes living, sometimes a fresh memory and in these odd experiences with reality, seen through imaginative lens and poured into the world through art installations, poetry and images.
Any decent Art form must have an outlet or space, where jumping into dumpsters looking for treasure and oddness becomes the kind of story someone might enjoy. Dumpster Archeology was tailor-built for a social media world, as photos and art began to appear on Facebook, Medium, and my own unique websites. This Public display of Art became essential to the unfolding of each story.
Randy Titus is another story that developed controversial elements but remains the largest collection discovered. Twice his things were pulled from a dumpster ….a year and a half apart.
From the unpublished sci-fi novel, the original art work, the teaching curriculum, the family genealogy, the Zen book collection and more, Randy Titus left a lot of material to ponder over.
A truly beautiful tale but one that drove drama deep into the Project. <<Link>>
As Dumpster Archeology grew, public events became a new form of storytelling, from festivals, markets, ted-x talks, theater sets, art installations and published articles, each thread became a multi dimensional rabbit-hole and each story drifted from the trash to a public experience.
A truly unique soul, Mabel Fitzwater was a 3rd generation Dogtown resident and when she passed, her house sat empty for 30 years. Her daughters would meet on Sundays and drink tea in the kitchen.
In late 2016 her family finally threw out the remaining objects connected to her life, including a bag of old clothes, a bag of glass/hardware and a bag full of old paperwork going back to the 1920s, full of Dogtown History. Her story is one of the most controversial of the Project.
If the Project had a beginning, it was the Strange Folk festival in 2016, and if you want a period at the end of the Project “sentence“, than the Artica festival in 2021 is it. The Project was forged to tell stories, to follow the threads and document the madness, in whichever format was required. I do believe endings are for fairy-tales, as the real life drama, family legacy and dumpster trash never ends. The Dumpster Archeology story and the Souls discovered represent a living tale that is too large to explain and too mysterious to spoil in tiny pop culture bubbles.
Seven 100 year old windows found in a dumpster next to an old pavilion in Tower Grove Park. Who could have guessed it turned into an epic story about a forgotten St Louis German who helped create the unique signature charm of South City St Louis.
The story grew and grew as owners of his unique houses shared their favorite architect’s legacy and I received the only known photo of a man who left no children, only houses.
When you find a dead person’s things in a dumpster, and bring it home to examine and recreate the history, it is very much akin to grave robbing, but isn’t that the legacy of modern archaeology? Controversy has plagued the Dumpster Archeology project but as no money was made and a punk mentality lies behind the zine/festival/public motifs, than the act of pushing boundaries is a big part of the Art. Trash is taboo, and speaking of the Dead through a trash oblivion is an act of defiant reflection.
The Women of Dumpster Archeology
Mothers, Sisters, Wives, School teachers, Poets and more, the Women of Dumpster Archeology left complex and interesting imprints across the St Louis Landscape.
Each story was a universe unto itself, and each woman was her own character in a life well lived. The careful unfolding of these dumpster found stories is meant to honor and reflect each individual feminine soul.
Dumpster Archeology has at it’s core a deep seated need to find humanity in the trash, to experience something bigger in that which has been discarded. Re-purposing is a part of modern Crafting, as all Art… is built upon that which came before it. This Project had a focus and purpose to operate with a full heart, to do no harm and maybe …..even help with healing. The Intention of Dumpster Archeology was to honor, a form of giving love, to those you respect and adore.
Bio-mythographeology is a term based on Audre Lorde’s work, to describe a natural process, a craft-centric creative output spanning Mediums but surrounding the Biography, Mythology and History efforts of the Dumpster Archeology Project. Blending together into narrative forms, these are the representations and collective perceptions of a lost Soul found in a dumpster.
When a “character” or very real newly deceased person came into focus with the project, after a period of “get to know ya”, a concentrated effort grows towards an Artistic honoring of that person. Like a reverse lottery, where a lucky soul is randomly found in a dumpster, then given a chance to give one last speech, do one last show and tell, get some needed attention, or simply to spread a message. In 5 years, dozens of former St Louis citizens had their privacy violated, their history examined and their very legacy displayed for the public. Reminds me of Archaeology in general, a science that also violates people’s privacy to be honored/exploited in museums across the world.
Death Purge and other stories
Death Purge: … to rid yourself of the possessions of the deceased in an indiscriminate way, and be free of the guilt of letting go.
Dumpster Archeology- Death Purge: … a collection of historical items discovered in a Dumpster relating to the history of a forgotten soul.
<<Link to the story>>
Dumpster Archeology begins with trespassing, in a place no one cares about, a middle place between the alleyways of our social territory and the trash oblivion where things disappear, to lose all context of meaning. History becomes erased as all art fades, but in the meantime we can still re-purpose somethings, as interesting people are slipping away daily into dumpster’s across America.
The End of Dumpster Diving
Covid, odd stories and a sense that things were coming to an end, or maybe its just a sensational collection of tales from the Summer of 2020.
Dumpster Archeology can be done by anyone, any where as it is not owned, but one day Dumpster Diving will be no more.
Dumpster Archeology exists to tell a particular set of stories, and can be revived to tell new ones. This is where my odd Art becomes a necessary aspect in the creation of a Storytelling experience, like growth on a mature tree……increasing bark, branches and perennial leaves, always growing towards the sunlight.
The Beating Heart of ……
One last event in October 2021, at the Artica, a burning man styled Art Festival where creativity and public interaction was the point.
Like a cap-stone to the pyramid of Dumpster Archeology, the Pop-up art museum and Yard Sale was a fitting ending to the Project.
The entire museum was dismantled slowly and 70 paintings, ready-mades, and personal items of the Dumpster Archeology Collection went home with the Art Community and Public .
To conclude, Dumpster Archeology is an Art that uses so many mediums, it scarcely qualifies for any singular definition, but at the core is a sense of remembering, a dutiful ART project with the aim of complex storytelling and if sometimes that goes wrong, chalk it up to the same mistake made by all conjecture based Artists….We did our best and tried to honor but within the discovery and attempt, is a lot of magic and strangeness.
Thank you so much for reading, and please feel free to explore this space. Not all the story is told, but the threads all lead to one large unspoken tapestry of Art. from your freindly Dumpster Archeologist — Lew Blink