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Artist Interview – Mimi Jardine

Mimi Jardine’s installation, Don’t Cry For Me Espera DeCorti (2013, Eye Lounge, Phoenix, AZ) was a colorfully magical experience constructed from (cleaned-up) trash found on walks around the artist’s Phoenix neighborhood. In this installation, she wanted to apologize to Espera DeCorti, who was an iconic symbol of an anti-littering campaign of the 1970’s. Jardine also hoped to make some amends for her “shameful” part in littering by turning trash into beauty.

Jardine’s “collections” of found objects is serious work for her, and she hopes to have the viewer think about our throw-away society, but she draws viewers into an issue dear to her heart with humor and a light touch. Jardine’s current installation, The Office of Environmental Responsibility (Eye Lounge, Phoenix, AZ from July 18 through August 10) continues her conversation on the things we buy, and more importantly, on the things we discard.

The Office of Environmental Responsibility

CS: Your last show at the EyeLounge made beauty out of trash that you found. With this installation, you are offering incentives for people who bring you trash. Can you tell me a little about your interest in trash as a inspiration for your art?

MJ: There’s a difference between trash and litter. I am consumed by the latter. Trash implies that each item has been discarded appropriately in a can or dumpster. The fact that there is a proliferation of it bothers me, but it’s not my subject. Rather, it’s litter that upsets me so. The word “litter” has several meanings but in this instance I am referring to “things lying about in disorder; esp., bits or scraps of rubbish scattered about (Webster’s New World Dictionary).”

In the 50’s, the word “litterbug” became part of popular ad campaigns encouraging people to pick up after themselves by stating: “Nobody Loves A Litterbug,” and “Don’t Be A Litterbug.” These were mantras of my youth.

The Office of Environmental Responsibility

It seems like you find the beauty in trash. Is that true?

Absolutely!  It began with finding beauty in rusted and crushed metals, which is what I use in my necklaces. Then I took Joe Willie Smith’s, Found Objects class at Phoenix College. Working together, he introduced me to the beauty of the colorful, mangled plastics. My first installation at Eye Lounge relied heavily on that.

This installation goes deeper – to what I feel is behind the verb, “litter” – the hubris, the lack of respect, the short-sightedness, the unwillingness to play by the rules.

Each item on the ground is put there by a human. Why? What makes someone think it’s okay to do that?

The Office of Environmental Responsibility

So, what is your idea for this show?

The concept of this show is driven by my desire to acquire lots of plastic lids for a future project and to experiment with community interaction. I have started by creating a faux government office set in a non-apocalyptic near future where people are more gentle, understanding, forgiving, and happy; an office whose purpose is to reward good behavior. However, because it IS a government office it is beset with red-tape and redundancy.

I am inspired by the work of my friend, Rada Dada, who incorporates play in all that he does. As a result, when one enters The Office of Environmental Responsibility one should be aware of the playful and silly way I have chosen to interact with the public. After a person hands over a to-go lid (only to-go lids are processed in my division; all other plastics have their own divisions) the item will be photocopied, measured, catalogued, stamped, and sorted, and the remitter will supply pertinent information in regards to their find. That more resources are used to process the item than are prudent and necessary is evident. That people get rewarded for bringing lids into The Office of Environmental Responsibility is fun.

That I get to keep the lids, in their various stages of decay, is my reward. I find the variations of size, embossing, disintegration, and filth interesting and worthy of documenting. The tangible result of this project will be my originals of the “receipts” as well as the lids themselves.

In an effort to engage further with the remitters, I am supplying the stage for a sculpture created by placing the remitted lids any way they choose.

What do you hope people will take away with after visiting your installation?

I have no expectations about the reception of this project. But to answer the question, I confess my hope is that I get people thinking about their world as being more than just their house or their car – to include the walks they take, the places they park, the stores they visit.

By encouraging people to take responsibility for a piece of litter in their path on a piece of property that isn’t theirs might seem silly but I have experienced a sense of pride as I go about picking up litter no matter where I am. People take notice. I get thanked a lot. It’s an easy habit to start and it’s like smiling in that you get all warm and fuzzy inside when you do it.

The Office of Environmental Responsibility

Any plans to continue this beyond The Office of Environmental Responsibility?

If this project is successful, I would like to open more iterations of The Office of Environmental Responsibility for other types of litter, such as a Straw Division, a Cup Division, a Fast Food Wrapper Division, etc. in other locales.

I have another project involving chewing gum, DNA, and GPS that is in the works as well.

Mimi Jardine’s Office of Environmental Responsibility opens July 18th from 6-9 at Eye Lounge Gallery. and runs until August 10th. Open on Fridays from 6-9, Saturdays from 1-5, Sundays from 11-3. Website:

You can see more work from Mimi Jardine, at

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