View Into Dumpster Tells Story of Artist Mac Premo’s Life

By Susan Shin

Nov 11, 2011 7:00am

Knickknacks. Junk. Stuff.

When people are faced with mounting piles of things collected over the years, they usually throw them out, or else they become the next subjects of a “Hoarders episode. But Mac Premo did something different: He made a work of art instead.

The Brooklyn artist and self-proclaimed “stuff collector” has created The Dumpster Project, something he came up with when faced with having to downsize to a smaller art studio last year. With the help of others, Premo took close to 500 objects he had collected throughout his life and built a giant collage inside a 30 cubic-yard dumpster.

“Storing it seemed strange because there are some weird [things in the dumpster] that are questionable as to why one would put it in storage, but I knew I couldn’t throw it away as well,” he said.

He’s probably talking about the Craig Morton football card (“Craig Morton looks exactly like Neil Diamond, which is just weird”), the 1920s-era amberol tube record, the toy shark, and various school IDs (“really terrible hair in some of these”).

But amongst the obscure entities are also the sentimental items: the pair of shoes in which his daughter first learned to walk, ticket stubs from a three-day baseball game pilgrimage with his father, and a potato chip bag from the night that he first professed his love to his then-girlfriend, now-wife.

In addition to the walk-in art installation, Premo has built a website where he is currently photographing and posting each of the objects, along with a story of its significance.

It’s those stories collectively that have made the project a learning experience for Premo — who realizes the project is less about the material objects and more about the memories behind them.

“I don’t own a yacht, I don’t even actually own a car, but I’ve got two wonderful daughters, I’ve got the greatest wife on earth, my parents are well and phenomenally supportive, and I have tremendous friends,” he said. “I’ve come away from this feeling like I’ve examined my life and I’m extremely lucky.”

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