Today’s Feature – February 17-18: Last Night’s Garbage

February 19, 2008 at 12:50 am (Today's Feature)

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We here at PEV love sites like today’s feature – ones that are truly original with an admirable purpose and mission pushing it along (much like our site, we like to think). Last Night’s Garbage (LNG) is a creative reminder that the United States throws away enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks each day, piecing together a photo blog of the litter in their own backyard: New York City. The identity of those working on the LNG site is a little secretive, but it’s for good reason; “Each person in New York contributes to the waste that is produced. I view the garbage on the streets as sculptures, created by the inhabitants of this city, which last for very short periods of time… Physically these pieces of ‘art’ will never exist again.”

Because of the anoniminity of LNG, we don’t even know who created this blog. But we do know the individual who had a vision shaped out of “junk” was tired of suffering at the hands of the litter hounds in the city while calling an apartment in downtown Manhattan home. Apparently there was “garbage outside the building, garbage in the hallway and garbage on the stairs, garbage everywhere.” In fact, when this unknown tenant would look out each of his four windows, all he could see was garbage… obviously a problem considering the prices of downtown Manhattan apartments. Thus, this all lead to a creative solution: “I thought that if this is what I was paying to look at, then this is what I will look at. I no longer walked down the streets with blinders on. Looking at garbage, I found colors, textures, volume and lines that I had rarely seen anywhere else. I decided to document what I was looking at and post them on the Internet to create a collection.”

Visit the site, and you’ll see there’s more than pictures to it. Some of the stories that coincide with these photos are pretty interesting/hilarious too. And the site also works as “a library of sorts for information about recycling and responsibly discarding your personal waste. It is a resource if you need environmentally friendly information about getting rid of your Christmas tree, computer or electronics, batteries, plastics, and the list goes on.” Keep an eye out for LNG – chances are they’ll soon be expanding out to cities here and abroad, as well as even broadcasting some of these great ideas on our television airwaves. Check out the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: Last Night’s Garbage (LastNightsGarbage.com) PensEyeView.com (PEV): How did the concept for Last Night’s Garbage first come about?

LastNightsGarbage.com (LNG): Well, I was still adjusting to my new apartment in downtown Manhattan, not because of the incessant noise of sirens or the signs up in the building warning about burglars coming through ill-installed AC window units. It was because of the garbage: garbage outside the building, garbage in the hallway and garbage on the stairs, garbage everywhere.

The first post on Last Night’s Garbage.com is an actual photo I took to complain to the management company about the garbage problem in and around the apartment building. The copy in that post is a letter to my management company that was inspired by an actual phone conversation I had with the landlord.

You can view that post at http://www.lastnightsgarbage.com/?p=4

I not only had to wade through garbage to get to the front door of my building but once inside my apartment, when I would look out each of my four windows, all I would see was garbage. My apartment was on the first floor and mounds of garbage lined the courtyard and back of the building. Some people pay massive amounts of money for houses that have views of oceans, sunsets, mountains and even city skylines. The fact that I was paying New York City prices for unobstructed views of garbage was the inspiration for Last Night’s Garbage.

I thought that if this is what I was paying to look at, then this is what I will look at. I no longer walked down the streets with blinders on. Looking at garbage, I found colors, textures, volume and lines, that I had rarely seen anywhere else. I decided to document what I was looking at and post them on the Internet to create a collection.

PEV: LNG is an anonymous site… why so secretive?

LNG: Last Night’s Garbage isn’t about the vision of one person. I’m really just capturing in an image, what an entire city is creating. Each person in New York contributes to the waste that is produced. I view the garbage on the streets as sculptures, created by the inhabitants of this city, which last for very short periods of time. Either someone comes along and adds to the garbage with more garbage, or someone picks through the garbage and changes it or sanitation workers pick it up and leave room for an entirely new sculpture to take it’s place. Physically these pieces of ‘art’ will never exist again.

PEV: Has anyone ever tried to track down the real person behind the photos or try to offer their own version of the LNG concept?

LNG: I do allow comments on the site and a few people will riff of off a photo and give their two cents. I encourage that. As far as anyone tracking me down… Well if they have tried, I guess they weren’t successful because I haven’t heard from anyone. And no, that isn’t a challenge to anyone.

PEV: What has been the most surprising piece of trash that you have encountered?

LNG: Human hair, toilets, funny and odd self-help books. It’s all pretty surprising because it is such personal objects that are later exposed to everyone. There are surprisingly a lot of baby strollers in the garbage. I envision these kids getting up out the baby stroller and running for the first time like Forrest Gump, when his braces came off.

PEV: The stories on LNG are extremely fascinating and really give you an idea of the person (or persons) behind the most recent disposed piece. What has been your favorite story so far?

LNG: I liked the story of Billy Ray “9 to 5” Rodgers. He was a gambler that came to NYC looking for high stakes Poker games. Unfortunately things didn’t end well for him. I have a few recurring characters and I enjoy writing their stories as well.

PEV: Since you won’t tell us who the people are behind LNG, give us a little insight; what kind like of music does the LNG team to listen to?

LNG: Last Night’s Garbage likes, what do the kids call it? Indie music?

PEV: LNG is turning trash into art, a new movement in pop art for the new millennium. What is your take on people that can’t see the site as a work of art of as a pop culture center for discussion and fascination?

LNG: I wouldn’t pressure anyone into thinking that the site is anything more than pictures of trash with semi interesting commentary. But, artists have been using discarded materials for the last one hundred years. I believe that each New Yorker is an artist, because they contribute to the aesthetic of our environment, be it intentionally or not. Duchamp put a toilet in a gallery and he will be in art history books forever. Today a bath and tile guy will put a toilet on the street [to get discarded] and I believe it carries just as valuable a statement. Not the same statement as Duchamp, but it’s own statement.

PEV: Which part of NYC offers the best environment for art and art appreciation?

LNG: Chelsea has the international, big money work. But the Lower East Side is coming into it’s own with a more DIY approach to art. As far as appreciation, Brooklyn has more communities where art is more a way of life instead of an afterthought.

PEV: Growing up, did you ever think you would be living in NYC and talking about the garbage of New York City?

LNG: No. No I did not.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to the success of the site? Well, for those that know who you are.

LNG: People think it’s interesting. No one thinks it’s as odd as I thought they would.

PEV: Ever found something that was very valuable? Or a “buried treasure”?

LNG: I really haven’t. But I do not touch the garbage or have any interest in bringing it home. There are plenty of people in the city that find value in the garbage. A few months ago I was moving and I discarded my mattress on the sidewalk. It took no more than 15 minutes, for a guy to come by with a truck and take it. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, I guess.

PEV: “Each day the United States throws away enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks.” (The Cass County Solid Waste Management District). If there’s one thing you could tell people about reevaluating their disposal of garbage, what would it be? Is it safe to say that LNG recycles?

LNG: Last Night’s Garbage recycles as much as humanly possible. And actually recycling is probably the most interesting aspect that I have learned about from doing this site. Did you know there is a Peanut hotline? When you get a package in the mail and it has all those packing peanuts, there is a number you can call and they will tell you where the nearest peanut drop-off center is and they will connect with a business that can reuse those peanuts. Last Night’s Garbage has become a library of sorts for information about recycling and responsibly discarding your personal waste. It is a resource if you need environmentally friendly information about getting rid of your Christmas tree, computer or electronics, batteries, plastics, and the list goes on. I try to post relevant information about the environment or current articles and opinions about what to do about the problem that we have found ourselves in concerning the environment.

PEV: When you are not working with LNG, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

LNG: I enjoy the city. That is why doing this site is not that time consuming for me, because I am walking around the city anyway. Now I just have to remember to bring my camera.

PEV: Any plans on taking LNG to another city? Or even overseas?

LNG: I received a great garbage image from France a few weeks ago. I would love to expand Last Night’s Garbage to as many cities as possible.

PEV: If you could look at a celebrity’s garbage, who would it be and why?

LNG: Paris Hilton or Britney Spears. Pregnancy tests and condom packaging have so many stories behind it. I’m looking out for a dumpster baby, although ethically, that may be kind of dicey.

PEV: Whose is more “full of garbage”— Politicians or “Young Hollywood”?

LNG: Both.

PEV: Where do you see LNG in ten years?

LNG: I would like Last Night’s Garbage to be seen by as many people as possible, in as many mediums as possible. A production company approached me because they wanted to base a TV show off of the site. They wanted to have me go around and pick through garbage and talk about it. I don’t know if I’m into that specific idea, but hopefully I can put something together that will expand on this concept.

PEV: Which “borough” of New York, tends to have the most interesting garbage?

LNG: Manhattan just because of the density of people and the fact that there is so much foot traffic on the streets. But Staten Island has the Fresh Kills Landfill which is the largest manmade structure on earth and can be seen with the naked eye from space. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to photograph Fresh Kills.

PEV: What’s one word that comes to mind when you think of New York “garbage”?

LNG: Plentiful. PEV: So, what’s next for Last Night’s Garbage?

LNG: I look forward to expanding Last Night’s Garbage to other mediums so more people can relate to it and find it relevant.

For more information on Last Night’s Garbage, check out www.LastNightsGarbage.com

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1 Comment

  1. When trash is art: “I view the garbage on the streets as sculptures” | green LA girl said,

    […] is trash art? Last Night’s Garbage (the authors are anonymous) describes the connection in an interview: I view the garbage on the streets as sculptures, created by the inhabitants of this city, which […]

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