The Dumpster Project


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by Pavel Zoubok Gallery, Mac Premo
30 Monday 30th January 2012

We chased up artist and dumpster curator Mac Premo, who’s taken this hoarder’s wet dream on the road around America over the last few months, filling an enormous bin with hundreds of curios and relics from his life. Whether a ticket stub for a Yankees game on September 11th that never happened or a childhood maths test, he seems to have it all. We discover why, and how.

3 waving Mao watches, from 3 different friends

Hi Mac, could you tell us a bit more about your creative background? What got you to the point you're at as an artist & creative now?

Hello readers, I'm Mac. I think what got me to this auspicious point as an artist and creative is stubbornness combined with an outlook on life that is one part bleak existentialism mixed with one part humble gratitude for how lucky I am. What I mean is that we are all going to die and the things we do will likely be forgotten. Having said that, the things around me, my wife, my daughters, baseball and steak... I really like those things. Oh, and wine, too. So spending what time I have making things I don't really care about is a vastly depressing notion.

What’s the Dumpster Project’s story? How did you get permission to use the dumpster?

Actually, the Frank Collective (a Brooklyn creative and production agency) bought the dumpster. When I came up with the idea for The Dumpster Project, I approached their founder Jiffy Iuen, told her about it and she said she wanted in. From there I started researching how one procures a dumpster, and where one puts said procured dumpster. I quickly found out two things: nobody buys dumpsters and they don't normally stay in one place for very long. So right off the bat I was up to something that I couldn't really find a blueprint for.

So I contacted Phil at Hecho Inc, a design/build firm which I knew had worked on these dumpster pools that were around New York a couple years back. They put me in touch with a dude named David Belt, and the strangest thing that has ever happened to me happened. I told him about the project, we talked for like 40 minutes, and then we walked into this big empty-ish space he owned in Gowanus, in Brooklyn. He said something like: 'So, yeah, you could put your dumpster there.' Boom. The Dumpster Project had a place to happen.

'Tell Me Something Sweet' note, replied to by Betsy

How long was the exhibition running? And how'd you get in touch with people at Delkab market to show it?

The Dumpster is currently on view at the Invisible Dog Art Center on 51 Bergen Street in Brooklyn, and no longer at the Dekalb market. It’ll be on view Thursdays through Sundays from 1pm to around 5 or 6 pm until at least mid-March. Or by appointment, and since my studio is literally next door, that means 'email me and bring coffee. Or beer. Depending on what time it is'.

Where do you think your fascination with collection and curation comes from?

I have always just been that way. When I was a kid, I collected baseball cards veraciously. Then I got into cars and I taped car pictures on every inch of my wall. Shortly thereafter, pages of skate magazines took their place. I am comforted by organized clutter.

Big head Paul O'Neill

What were you hoping to achieve with the project?

Initially, I was reacting. I was in a corner, a bit, faced with having to get rid of a bunch of my shit. My wonderful shit. Sure, I could have put it in storage, but that would have been anathema to the whole point of keeping it in the first place. The point of keeping it was, ostensibly, to use a record of my existence as the medium for art. Storage felt like a cop-out, a defeat. So initially, my hope was to make good on the keeping of all this stuff, do something with it before it really had to go. 

In the end, though, I found that I made the most communicative piece of art I have ever made.

Mac, in the dumpster

And what do you feel inspires your other collage, video & animation work?

I make art in order to organize the world around me. I just can't imagine going through existence without giving form to the crazy shit that comes up as I navigate. The form I find comfort in making, that ends up being art. 

See the entire collection photographed so far on the Dumpster Project blog, and find out about Mac's other work on his site.

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