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Trash As Treasure 

click to enlarge The first Musical Waterfall built by Music for Homemade Instruments cofounder Skip LaPlante at PS1 in New York City
  • The first Musical Waterfall built by Music for Homemade Instruments cofounder Skip LaPlante at PS1 in New York City

"Garbage is very inviting," remarks Margot Becker, organizer of Trash Fest, an art festival kicking off in Marbletown on June 4. The fair will specialize in two types of art: garbage you can look at and garbage you can hear. The Marbletown Waste Transfer Station (formerly the "town dump") will host a monthlong art show, including an interactive "waterfall," and musical instruments for the public; the Wired Gallery in High Falls will offer art made from recycled materials; and a concert at the Rail Trail Café in New Paltz will feature musicians playing instruments fashioned from trash. On the opening day of the festival, John Michelotti of the group Catskill Fungi will lead a workshop assembling structures out of cardboard infused with mushroom spores.

Skip LaPlante, avant-garde composer and instrument maker, will construct a waterfall powered by audience members pouring water down PVC pipes, which strike found objects, producing musical tones. "It's like a big drum where water is the drumstick," explains Becker. In previous waterfalls LaPlante has used license plates, yogurt containers, garbage can lids, and old boots—hanging from ropes and wooden beams—as noisemakers. (He won't know the contents of this installation until he visits the Transfer Station and starts foraging.) Trained in music at Princeton, LaPlante creates waterfalls with secret modulations and intonations only the musically astute can hear. LaPlante will also appear at the Rail Trail Café on June 5, where he'll play the kannon, a hand-built zither made of discarded wood and bronze wire.

Bill Ylitalo, a professor at Bard College and the New School, has created musical instruments out of garbage at the Transfer Station for anyone to play. Thanks to Trash Fest, we can all learn the pleasure of melodically reusing a discarded object. Our nation has the concept of a "rescue animal," but not a "rescue flute." Playing pieces of garbage leads away from the tradition of Western music, with its rigidly defined scale of notes, to Asiatic and African music, which employ microtones: sounds in between the notes on a piano.

The Wired exhibition will include Eggshells: Deep Root Farm, a painting by Corey Solinger on broken eggshells pasted onto canvas, resembling a mosaic. Ana Bergen has created behind the cloud, a sculpture with a salvaged TV screen. Seven Nails by Chris Fanjul is a found-wood assemblage including the sole of an old shoe. Lenny Kislin makes witty constructions from antique wooden dolls, house keys, chessboards and billiard balls. Meanwhile, back at the Transfer Station, local muralist Eugene Stetz has joyfully decorated truck trailers with re-sourced paint.

One can imagine other artforms at future Trash Fests: dancers clad in banana peels, quilts made of aluminum foil, poets writing on Raisin Bran boxes, Clorox bottle puppetry, singer-songwriters playing car windshields. One goal of Trash Fest is to encourage everyone to experiment with rubbish-as-art. Around 10 years ago, a group of Boy Scouts appeared at the Transfer Station and constructed a cheerful robot from metal waste, which still stands and will be a proud participant in this celebration.

Educational gatherings are also scheduled. The Marbletown Community Center is showing the film Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic? on June 15. Cornell Cooperative Extension will lead a composting workshop on June 18 in Stone Ridge. Trash Fest is sponsored by the League of Women Voters. (Who knew the League had a Resource Management Committee?) All events are free. Obviously, children will be delighted with this celebration.

Trash Fest begins at 12:30pm on Saturday, June 4 at the Marbletown Waste Transfer Station in High Falls, and continues throughout the month. For more information, see Trash Fest Ulster on Facebook.

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