In Iván Sikic’s Trashed series, the artist intervenes in public spaces attempting to highlight the invisibility of human-produced garbage and illustrate society’s disregard for the natural environment. Shot throughout New York City and in Pucallpa, Peru, Sikic’s photographs depict golden trash monuments in various locations. Anonymously appropriating garbage bags and other waste left out on streets in New York and in Pucallpa, Peru, Sikic spray paints these objects gold. After this transformation, he returns them to their original locations. The golden trash objects at once become akin to sacred relics, starkly highlighted and contrasting dramatically with the natural landscapes they are superimposed in, thus creating a moment of uncanny tension. Sikic’s interventions activate public space, and encourage a dialogue about the unsustainable relationship between humans and the waste that we produce, in line with the artist’s original intent.
After meticulously photographing each site––creating brief snapshots of refuse in their environments––the photographs produced by Sikic serve as documentarian records of a specific moment, time, and place. The images of the golden trash are superimposed onto maps of the sites they were found in. Historical maps of New York from the 19th century––sourced by the artist at the New York Public Library––contextualize the images of trash and situate them in specific sites and cultural contexts. Trash, although seemingly ephemeral in that it disappears from immediate sight once it is collected, ultimately becomes a part of the earth’s oceans, rivers, and landfills – it affects geographies, biologically changing ecosystems for generations to come. Like gold, which retains its value and lasts throughout time, human-produced waste causes irrevocable, lifelong damage to the planet. The use of digital maps of Pucallpa contrasts with the early historical maps of New York, which ultimately lead to the project’s second iteration, arguably autonomous from the artist himself.
Text by Alex Santana.
Pictured: Trashed; Bushwick, 2016. Photo Collage on Archival Paper. 30cm x 30cm