How much trash does an average adult produce a day? What if he or she collected all of it for six months running? Here is an artist duo with the answers to these interesting questions in hand. British modern artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster add a pinch professionalism to trash that they generate being turned into their self-portraits.
Noble and Webster have been working as a collaborative duo since they met in college in 1986. A poor anonymous artist couple must have had an easier access to trash than to any other material. The duo’s first solo show titled “British Rubbish” in 1996 garnered a great deal of attention. Starting from 1997, they used lightings to produce sculptures. A pile of trash with lighting shed on it brought international fame to the duo – one of their leading works of art in their early years titled “Dirty White Trash (With Gulls)” made of six months’ everyday trash that they generated that is piled up like a mountain. What makes it all the more interesting is that when it is lit up, it looks like a couple leaning against each other with a glass of wine and a cigarette in the hands in the projected shadows on the wall.
An anti-art and anti-aesthetic piece with the shadows is an abstract sculpture as well as the duo’s realistic self-portraits that strike both filthiness and awe in the hearts of viewers. It reinterprets Plato's Cave from a perspective of modern art. Tied up in an underground cave over their lifetime, people mistakenly think of the shadows projected on the wall as the real existence of objects. Likewise, audiences are crazy about shadow-like illusions because they believe that they are real while turning a blind eye to the essence of art.
Just as the ancient philosopher likens prisoners in a cave to an ignorant public, the modern-era artists are critical of an illusionary and biased notion that art is a thing of beauty and purity. They remind audiences that artists work feats of magic to change rubbish into an attractive work of art but they are the main culprits behind environmental degradation by generating a great deal of scraps for the sake of romantic lifestyles and creative works. The pile of trash even with an awful carcass in it may tell us an inconvenient truth that we try to shun.