Taxonomy of Trash is finding beauty in the discarded, help share their work!


The members of the Taxonomy of Trash project (from left to right): Tim Eads, Raul Romero, Austen Brown, Stacey Doughtery, Carlos AvendañoPhiladelphia artist Tim Eads has garbage on his mind—and he’s using Kickstarter to spread the word. He and his team are hoping to raise $7,500 for their Taxonomy of Trash project by February 24 to help build a mobile trash analysis laboratory, publish a book of photographs and hold a multimedia exhibition.

Eads and his four-person crew—three artists and a biology teacher—spent an entire weekend in October 2011 cataloguing trash for a Recycled Artist-In-Residency show. They narrowed the discarded objects down to their 100 favorites, and categorized them using a technique similar to a phylogenetic tree—a branching diagram that shows the evolutionary relationships among species. Each object was carefully documented with photographs and sound recordings to preserve its uniqueness because, says Eads, “We strive to find beauty in the simplest things.”

Eads’ team compiled the photos into a book, which has an ISBN and is registered with the Library of Congress, but has yet to be published. Funds from the Kickstarter campaign will enable the crew to finish printing. A DVD with sound recordings and a behind-the-scenes documentary will accompany the catalog. Backers who donate $100 on Kickstarter will receive a copy of the book.

Carlos Avendaño, the team’s photographer, speaks poetically in a video about the project:

“As I look at all of these items, I think of the ways I could photograph them and make each item an object of desire, kind of like when you’re looking at products to buy in a catalog. By taking each object out of its environment and out of the context of trash, and then by isolating it against a white background, helps me achieve the image I’m looking for.”

Funding will also help build a pedal-operated mobile laboratory that will have everything necessary to collect and examine garbage, take high-quality photographs and record sounds. When the lab is operational, the team plans to conduct its first excursion in Wilmington, Del. An exhibition of the found objects will follow at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts from April 5 to July 21.

“It’s really an enjoyable process because in some ways the work has already been done,” says Eads. “So my job here is simply be an editor … just really choosing the best of the best, which could potentially change every time.” 

Visit the Taxonomy of Trash Kickstarter here.

MOLLY O'NEILL is a California native turned Philadelphia aficionado. When she's not working on freelance projects, she teaches yoga, revels in the local food scene, and hangs out with her extended family of rescued pit bulls.