Curated by Rod Taylor
What is waste? Definitions can vary, but the key characteristic of waste is that it is unwanted, and perceived to have little to no value. It’s also been a common element that has run through much of Max Liboiron’s art practice. In it, she has mined many unlikely and diverse sources, reclaiming and re-purposing materials that others have thrown away, giving them new life and visual expression in the process. In her landscapes and miniature dioramas, characteristics such as grandeur or preciousness contradict both the scale of the work and its humble origins.
But beyond the elevation of mundane materials, the work also often provides the opportunity for viewer participation. As in Orange Pekoe, visitors have been invited at various times to some action; take objects, exchange objects, leave objects – in short, to change what they see in some way, or react to changes made by others. In this way, the gallery becomes a vehicle for a kind of scientific inquiry. Social behaviour is investigated and recorded through various means, including the altering of the piece itself.
Taken as a whole, the work would seem to allude not only to our collective habit of voracious consumption, but our relationship to both the ecological and social environment, and the role our activities play in reshaping them. Even seemingly small choices that we make, both individually and collectively, can have further reaching implications. So where are you going to leave your teabag?
Orange Pekoe is a landscape made of trash. Although the pile of tea bags and cardboard may bring to mind the panicked proverbial saying that “we make too much garbage!”, it symbolizes something further. Every tea bag was saved, dried, and delivered by the artist’s family, friends, friends-of-friends, coworkers, and even strangers from around the world. Orange Pekoe is not meant to represent a pile of guilt, but is a quantitative testimony to how people will mind and care for their waste when there is an opportunity to reuse it. As such, Orange Pekoe is a tea-bag tally-chart of individual commitment to, conscientiousness of, and generosity with their waste.
Max Liboiron grew up in northern Canada in a small rural community. Her understanding of environmental relationships was formed within this context and has been influential in her early studies in biology, her environmental activism and her more topical inquiries in art. Now living between Brooklyn, New York and Winlaw, British Columbia, she brings the ideas, skills, and points of view she developed in the north to her art and to local instances of urban and rural ecologies. Max Liboiron holds an MFA and a certificate in cultural studies from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and BFA with Distinction from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada. She is currently pursuing a PhD at New York University studying cultures and paradigms of garbage and trash activism.