Party City is the Devil
The world is drowning in garbage.
We all know its true.
Whether clogging our landfills, or choking fish in the sea, our addiction to things in Late Capitalist America is leading to the potential extinction of nearly everything.
In 2016, I decided to use party supplies as a metaphor for the absurdist, runaway overconsumption that is depleting the world's resources, and changing its climate.
With their candy colors and chemical nature, these paper and plastic playthings are the perfect symbol for taking what we want from the Earth, rather than what we need.
Party City is the world's biggest party supply conglomerate, so I shopped there for 1.5 years, buying objects to make into temporary sculptures in my studio.
All the images were made using natural light only, and contain things that used to be natural resources.
Trees, plants, and oil are converted into plastic spoons, scary masks, diabetes-inducing candy, and paper streamers.
Party City exists to sell trinkets and objects that end up in the trash the day they're used. It's an entirely disposable culture, and one I wanted to put under a microscope with my current work.
(In the case of the recent global news story, Party City helped drained the world of helium, which they give away for free with each mylar balloon they sell.)
Every day, the news gets worse, with respect to the future of our planet.
I'm hoping these colorful, dynamic-yet-dystopic images will help bring attention the climate change, as they present a sense of cheery foreboding and underlying chaos that is difficult to miss.
Sometimes I buy things and throw them away.
Paper towels. Party favors. Tiny flashlights.
Things like that.
Here in the First World, we do it all the time. Our cultural artifacts are disposable.
Sure, we recycle our glass bottles and tin cans, but that's about it. If your DVD player breaks, you simply chuck it in the trash. (We're good at breaking things, but not so good at fixing them.)
I'm also something of a pack rat.
You can only imagine the accumulation of useless crap that faced me, as I chose to move out of my studio after eight years.
Piles were everywhere. An over-stuffed garbage bag leaned in the middle of the room, like a local drunk. The waste paper basket next to my computer sat, unemptied, for almost a year.
Call it what you will, it was occupying the majority of my workspace. The truth is I left the studio because I couldn't afford it anymore. Too much cash for how little I used it. But the light was so beautiful. That's where I made my best work. It hurt a lot to give that up, I assure you.
The resulting photographs represent two parallel processes: my desire to maximize the value of my otherwise worthless goods, and my need to squeeze one last bit of glory from that gorgeous light, before it was gone forever. In the end, the project was more emotional than I had anticipated. Fortunately, it made me feel much better about having to leave.
Everything you see in these photographs is MINE.
My farm. My property. My nature.
I own it.
After examining food in my last project, "The Value of a Dollar," this time around, I wanted to focus on territory.
The Earth itself.
So I mined my own natural resources for a year, here on my land in Northern New Mexico, and removed the artifacts to my studio. Then, I fabricated the animals and objects into sculptures to be photographed. Products. Commodities.
This series of photographs is envisioned as the first wave of products offered by the Blaustein Mining Company, my corporate alter ego.
As such, MINE is ongoing. The images are direct representations of dual processes: my creative practice, and the capitalistic behavior through which we extract what we wish from the Earth for our own material gain.
The Value of a Dollar
The over-consumption of food, and of the resources used to raise, grow, and produce it, is a critical issue in contemporary society.
Photography, my chosen method of expression, contributes mightily to the problem. Millions, if not billions of advertising dollars are spent annually to photograph food and obfuscate reality.
Fast food conglomerates are certainly the worst culprits, but everywhere we see glamorized versions of what we eat.
Food is clearly a potent symbol of wealth, power, health, and globalization for the 21st Century.
Its value is determined by the price of oil, its transnational transport contributes to Global Warming, its ingredients entice America into obesity, and its production processes animals into floss and mush.
The photographs in this project attempt to strip back the artifice; to depict food items as they were sold, (minus packaging,) without styling, retouching, or artificial light. Each image represents one dollar's worth of food purchased from various markets in New Mexico.
The subjects exist as equivalent amounts of commodity, and nothing more. The resulting images allow for a meditation on the power and seductive nature of the photographic medium itself.