Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Albany Landfill

The Albany Landfill (June 2006), a short photo essay
I first visited the Albany landfill in July 2004. Someone who worked at the Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley mentioned it as one of the most inspiring public spaces they had ever seen. We visited the area during the making of the documentary and ended up using some footage in the final version of the project.
Although when we first encountered the landfill we were under the impression that the magnificant pieces of art found throughout the space had been created by anonymous artists who found inspiration in the freedom allowed by the isolation of the area, we later found out that there was a larger history to the landfill that we did not know.
In fact, the land had first become occupied by homeless people who were pushed out of Emryville in the 1980s. Some of these people took to living here and building semi-permanent dwellings and other structures. Some of them were the ones that began constructing art out of the trash that was there. With time other artists came along and began constructing pieces. At some point (in the 90s) the homeless people who had been living on the Albany Bulb/Landfill were evicted, although some of the art remains intact. We were unable to include this information in the documentary because we did not find out this more detailed version of the history until we were in Syracuse, New York, during the tour. Don Mitchell, a cultural geographer at Syracuse University informed us of the hidden history of this place.

In the documentary, we feature the albany landfill at the end, as a way to contrast the possibilities and limitations of outdoor public spaces with indoor ones, like infoshops. On the one hand, in an outdoor public space like this, it seems that certain social groups are less likely to dominate the space. It can have a feeling of being more genuinely open. At the same time, it is subject to city control. But the thing about the landfill is that it seems so unrestricted. The art is not censored or painted over or taken down. At least not so far. We've been hearing for over a year that the landfill is in threat of being demolished for commercial development. We aren't sure where this stands right now. I'm glad that I got a chance to see it again, if nothing else.
me and stirling at the landfill (june 2006)

All of the following were taken june 2006:

Pictures from previous visits: (much of this artwork is no longer around)

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one of my favorite pieces, now gone. (summer 2004.)

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there were a few of these concrete slabs with stencils of well-known activists. The other one I remember is Malcom X. Notice that Goldman was given a mustache by a later visitor to the landfill. I am pretty sure that these are still around, and have been at least since 2004. (summer 2005)

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i don't think this is here anymore, but maybe i just didn't see it this time. (summer 2005)

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summer 2005.

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The famous "castle." It's been heavily graffitied over since I last saw it in March 2006. (july 2006)

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july 2006. There are several panels of these paintings by the same artist that line a path along the waterway. Some of them have been heavily altered by affects of weathering since I first saw them in 2004.

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another of my favorites. this was taken in summer 2004 and is no longer around.

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summer 2004. this huge gate with statues was made entirely out of some sort of foam material. it isn't around as far as i could tell.

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This is the center where everything opens out and there is a continually rotating array of trash sculpture. This was taken in july 2005.

Also, an entire documentary was made about the landfill. It's called Bums' Paradise. The website can be found here: I haven't seen it yet but am interested in doing so.


bart said...

I'm glad that I discoverd your blog.

James said...

These pictures are beauts.

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