To continue my apparent obsession with pennies…I accepted an invitation to submit a piece to an art show entitled “Dirt”, at the Lobby Gallery at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, UBC.
It is an interesting word, dirt. A lot of people use the word to refer to soil. Which if you are gardener or otherwise appreciator of soil, you might cringe at. Soil is full of life!
Think of the word ‘dirty’ and how we use it.
The call for submissions said this about the topic of dirt: the rude, out-of-place, “foreign”, unwanted, yucky, smutty, unnerving, filthy, freaky poo that you have been hiding (or not). One can also choose to muddy those constructs with concepts of groundedness, warmth, darkness, richness and fecundity. Anthropologist Mary Douglas in “Purity and Danger” (1966) analyses pollution and taboo as sociocultural constructs in which dirt is a “matter out of place”.
So I thought of pennies. Coins are inherently dirty as they pass from hand to hand. And money itself can be considered dirty in the sinful sense. And in Canada we recently stopped producing the penny and began phasing it out of use – treating it like unwanted dirt.
Then I thought of glass bottles, as I have heard the recycling of glass bottles is being removed from municipal programs – and bottles will be treated like dirt and tossed out.
And as a gardener…I thought of how people refer to soil as dirt. And so…
PENNY BOTTLE Coins are dirty, yet they have monetary value – in opposition to the lack of value commonly associated with ‘dirt’. In 2013, Canadian pennies were removed from circulation, demoting them to uselessness. Here, out of the penny-dirt grows a glass bottle, alive in the sense that it is repeatedly recyclable. However, the last facility in BC that recycles glass into new containers closed in 2008. Recycled glass is now typically used for road aggregate or cover at landfills. Glass bottles in curbside collection are unwanted in some municipalities: “the glass breaks and contaminates other higher value recyclables”. Will glass be discarded as if it were ‘dirt’?