One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure: Art toward impact over aesthetics

The purpose of art has evolved, so inevitably the art itself evolves with it. It is no longer meant to be awe-inspiring, but rather to push our boundaries. It relies more on concepts and the reactions and interpretations from the audience. Whenever there is a topic worth addressing, you can count on an artist to put it out there in the world; there are no boundaries anymore regarding the medium or concepts behind it.



While at some point aesthetically beautiful paintings were the mainstream product, avant-garde art has proved that the definition of art can be stretched as far as the audience will permit—and if the legendary porcelain urinal by the name of Fountain (1917) has enduredthe test I believe anything can. As long as the message it carries with it is strong enough, anything could be transformed into art—even trash.

Recently, the New York artist who reconstructed 3-D faces from DNAfound in trash left in public sparked a lot of controversy. It seemed likethe lines between science and art were blurred, but more significantly it was the line between science fiction and reality. Scientists have disputedthe method used and the accuracy of the reconstruction, but ultimatelythis is art: it was not meant to be judged by the rigid standards of science, but instead serves a different purpose—to trigger reactions, and it did.

Another intriguing art series was the sculptures made out of trash thatwhen illuminated with light projected unexpected shadows. There are so many underlying themes about this particular project and how we choose to interpret it. That a pile of trash can project a beautiful image speaks to the intention of the artists. It could generate countless hours of discussion about the contrast of the trash and the human-like projections.

These two examples serve to illustrate the ability of art to elicit strong reactions. How can our trash speak so much about who we are? Both as a society and as individuals.

Suffice it to say that one man’s garbage is another man’s art. As I see it, the purpose of art is no longer to be only aesthetically beautiful but moreover about the meaning it carries with it, sparking reactions and to make us question the way things are.