Garbage to Art: Philosopher, Artist Bob Johnson to Speak at W&J

Created: April 10, 2014
Last Updated: January 17, 2020

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WASHINGTON, Pa. (Nov. 14, 2013)—Bob Johnson, philosopher and artist interested in human ecology and designer of “River Cubes,” will speak at Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) Nov. 18 at  6 p.m. in Room 103 of the Howard J. Burnett Center.

Johnson’s lecture, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the W&J Philosophy Department and Department of Environmental Studies, with assistance from a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

A leading proponent of “artful trash management,” Johnson creates “River Cubes,” public sculptures that “creatively harvest waste streams and transform the resulting bounty into lively conversations and mute testaments to what our culture leaves behind.”

Essentially turning waste he collects along the river into art, Johnson calls it “philosophy in action with a sense of humor: serious fun fostering systematic redemption of the stuff we produce and discard.”

He said each “River Cube” has a story to tell and involves volunteers, property owners and students in the garbage collection process. Once compressed into a cube, the resulting object may include everything from old tires, wooden debris, shopping carts, rope or even a car seat. Many are placed alongside park trails near where they were found. They are “beautiful, shocking, uncomfortable and educational,” he said.

A “River Cube” has been installed by Johnson on the W&J campus. It will remain there through Earth Day 2014 in April.

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