The Garbage Artist

Micah Gibson

Picture a Stanford professor pushing a grocery cart to the San Francisco dump to scrounge for discarded treasures amid piles of ordinary garbage. Looks like hard times, but for Terry Berlier it's an act of art. On sabbatical from the Farm, the assistant professor of art honed her cart-rolling and dump-rummaging skills from last October through January as one of the artists in residence at Recology, a Bay Area garbage and recycling firm. As creative opportunities go, it offered extensive resources: free access to the public disposal area. The result was 16 artworks and the "incredible experience" of seeing what people throw away. Among her efforts is The Beginning and the End Meet,an achievement made possible by someone's disposal of a piano with ivory keys, still in working condition. Created completely from salvaged materials, "This piece reconfigures the well known solo instrument into a circular form that invites multiple players to explore the new device," Berlier explains. The keys generate sounds through a system Berlier wired into the work with the help of two more finds: a functioning iBook laptop (which runs a program providing the audio) and a microcontroller from a computer keyboard.