The Menace in our Midst

The mighty Parthenon. Awe-inspiring pyramids hugging the Nile. Stonehenge and its mysteries. These enduring symbols stir our imagination. They “live” and ennoble us.“Dumpster Dumping,” in the adept hands of Kim Curtis, has led to a vastly-different sort of monument, an incitement. It is one that provocatively spins a severe warning, a reminder that we are in peril–on the brink of being engulfed by plastic.“I want it completely understood that plastic is the brightly colored representative of the Fossil Fuel industry,” says Curtis, a teacher at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. A former costume designer in the San Francisco Bay area, she now “culls refuse”, goes to tornado sites and garbage dumps” to create Harvest: A Monument, an ironic memorial to our worst plasticized obsessions.
Composed of styrofoam, coffee bags, citrus netting and synthetic hair, Harvest is a colorful entreaty to limit the toxic load of plastics in our environment. A sardonic fairy tale, it amuses us with lawn wear animals, trinkets, floral leis, flags and party streamers. Its motorized deer is especially “fun.” Powered by the sun, this hobbled creature spewing plastic waste (“the refuse will continue to grow” mischievously promises Curtis), might be an unclear metaphor to some people visiting its Urbana site. But to ensure her “call to action” propels us to environmental action, she has attached a side panel with a QR code listing links for those who want to join her cause.“These corporations whose entire existence relies on the destructive extraction of toxic compounds from our land and water are killing people,” rues Curtis, a self-described “litter picker.”
“My fear is death and destruction…we must control our consumption (of plastics) but the fossil fuel industry is doing everything to truncate our options… I am watching the drought in California…our houses are burning…our fields are flooding…we need to be as aggressive as this industry.”Will phone calls to corporations and regulatory bodies bring about change? Maybe. Curtis is a stalwart in this crusade, and defending the environment depends on strongly committed voices.“The ‘Monument’ stands boldly and fully alerts its importance,” Kasia Kay, a Chicago artist and curator. “Just as historical monuments have been elevated for centuries to bring awareness, so does ‘Harvest. We must stop polluting the planet. We will end up killing ourselves and the Earth. Instead of monuments there will only be waste. That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?”

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