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Bob Johnson, Wheel Cube, 38 tire rims collected from the Pittsburgh Pool, Tireless Project, Summer 2003.

ATM & RiverCubes

A leading proponent of "Artful Trash Management", artist Bob Johnson creates "River Cubes", public sculptures that creatively harvest waste streams and transform the resulting bounty into lively conversations and mute testaments to what our culture leaves behind.

The artist calls it "philosophy in action with a sense of humor: serious fun fostering systematic redemption of the stuff we produce and discard." Each "River Cube", has a story to tell and involves volunteers, property owners and students in the garbage collection process. Once compressed into a cube, the resulting object may include everything from old tires, wooden debris, shopping carts, rope or even a car seat. Many are placed alongside park trails near where they were found. They are beautiful, shocking, uncomfortable and educational. This is the anti-monument: infinitely repeatable celebrations/warnings of the growing ubiquity of trash. By engaging the public with the display and making of his art, Johnson aims "to bewilder, provoke, and inspire awareness & action."

Although compacted into discrete cubes, these artworks extend powerfully into their environment. "RiverCubes Projects begin with river site scouting. Asking local people on or near rivers: Where has junk been dumped along riverbanks? leads to conversations about water quality, solid waste management, and places and people who might want to become involved in trash collecting and RiverCube making… Following up on suggestions leads to other encounters with people and places. Visits to local solid waste management facilities offer information about local practices and lead to someone somewhere willing to lend their equipment and staff to the actual crushing of the RiverCubes."

"Along the way dumpsites, facilities, and people involved are documented. Presentation materials evolve for social events to introduce those who want to help to the specifics of our cleanup efforts and the broader goals of Artful Trash Management. The fun has just begun: R'Cubes become focal points for social, performance, and lecture events on riverbanks at full moon rise, at festivals, at boys and girls clubs, and in university settings…"


Artist Statement


Artist in Post Gazette

Artful Trash Management Writing

© 2010