Human Remains, Worms, Art

I have a long-term, low-effort project that I think may never reach fruition, but it doesn’t matter. Instead of throwing out, I throw stuff with partial organic (decomposable) composition into my compost bin. This would be things like old socks no longer mendable or wearable, strange bits of textile that belonged to kids’ toys, old, horrendously over-worn underpants, plasticised paper — you get the idea. I’ve had the wish to harvest it at the end of composting cycles, at which time we use all our lovely muck in pots and beds, and make some kind of assemblage called “Human Remains” exploring what would remain of human material culture after time and micro-organisms get to it. There are fragments like polyester nets from said socks, the cotton happily rotted, elastic bands from panties male and female, strange plastic forms– assundry unidentified rotting objects.

The problem is that my husband usually does the heavy dirty job of emptying the compost, and I always forget to ask him to remember, and then it all gets spread or dumped somewhere, then I forget to go a-searchin’. I’ll keep putting the stuff in, but maybe the idea of the project is a good as the project itself (isn’t that one of the banes of conceptual art?).

I’ve misplaced a piece I did find, that I intended to photograph to post. I wondered what it was. Maybe a piece of sock? Maybe a layer of netting around a ball? Don’t know.

There was another project from waste that I never did do (see the eggshells in a recent post for one I did do). A thousand years ago, on a New York City balcony, I had a worm bin, and fed those beloved and peaceful, peaceable pink worms my kitchen scraps– an early vermiculturist was I.

Can you imagine the raised surface of lines on a cantaloupe melon — almost a vermiculated patter (how’s that for etymology moving around things? — just looked it up to find the official meaning — “a pattern made to resemble the track of a worm”). Photo above.

The rind of those melons lay on top of the layers inside the dark bin. The worms don’t eat the food– they eat the microorganisms that break down the food. What dissolved first on those rinds were the lower levels, so that all that remained were the raised, vermiculated patterns, and when I held them up, light shone through, as if lace. Lace from rotting canteloupe.

I wish I had at least photographed these. (They were so beautiful! Very Kiki Smith in a way). Or used them to make prints, or sewn them together to make a curtain, that in time itself would decompose. So many meanings I could have played with.

I still could do. Vermiculture is fun, could set some worm bins up. Easy to do. Wetted, shredded wrung-out newspaper as bedding. A bin with a holes on the bottom for air and excess water to escape. Add worms. Add small amounts of food waste (coffee grinds, carrot peels) — not too much because any heat generated is unappealing to worms — keep moist not dry, and cool not cold or hot. The worms reproduce. They eat. They poo– the poo, or “casing,” is your reward. They like the dark, so keep an opaque maybe plastic but lightweight sheet over the top. When you open to have a look, they will burrow deep, away. You love them more than they love you.

The cycle of matter and rot is inspiring, in which the fertility of rot begets new matter.

Then of course there’s the idea of all the destructiveness of human beings, and the soothing thought that “Human Remains” wanted to explore, that somehow maybe there’s a time when our influence will be inert. Hey, have you read The World Without Us? It’s an incredible piece of scientific-futurist-imagination-research, what it all looks like when people are gone. Ever since reading it, I’ve enjoyed the thought that head lice as a species will go extinct several hours after we do– at last, we can get rid of them!  http://www.worldwithoutus.com

PS I went to have a look for “human remains” in the raised bed where George smoothed the compost.  I found a piece of silver tinsel.  Please Birdy, in the spring, take this tinsel in your beak and weave it in your nest.

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