Georgia Dickie allows her art practice to be led by the availability and variety of found objects or discarded debris that she saves from the streets of her hometime Toronto, Canada. It is unsurprising, therefore, that with the scope of such scavenging restricted during recent pandemic-plagued times, when the artist’s ambulation was largely limited to the short stroll between her home and studio, her latest suite of sculptural assemblages exist on an increasingly intimate scale. And so, for her debut London solo exhibition at Soft Opening, Dickie decked out twenty cardboard boxes with detailed detritus dioramas. Entirely self-contained, able to be shipped as seen in a sustainable manner befitting of the artist’s appetite for upcycling, when opened and affixed to the wall these shoebox-sized sculptures serve as curious capsules of Canadian consumer culture and tell the story of society through its trash and the things it chooses to throw away. Plastic prop mussels aside, much of the refuse, rescued from roadside snow drifts and their subsequent puddles, could be considered mundane, with sweet wrappers, stained napkins, clothing tags and scraps of paper or packaging dominating the accompanying material inventory. Each assortment, however, acts as a psychogeographic exploration of excess and environmental ambivalence, underscored by scattered cast-offs from Toronto’s retail titans and boutique brands such as Roots, Canada West Boots, Tesla Fire Systems, Tough Duck and Dark Horse Espresso Bar.
A viewer’s inner investigator is unleashed, scouring the collection of capitalism offcuts for clues and assigning importance to each snippet of text or hint of handwriting. ‘It does not seem worth while’ alludes to the inefficacy of our endeavours, while ‘NO HOPE’ and ‘Coping with the new reality’ appear to clearly comment on our collective experience of Covid-19. Elsewhere, eagle-eyed observers uncover a real-life murder mystery, with one Toronto Star headline stating ‘Woman’s murder confession finally believed’, followed in a later litter layout with a faded photograph of a frog ornament (Lee Sabine’s 1997 slaying of her husband with the fabled stone amphibian was unknown until 2016, when John Sabine’s mummified remains were uncovered under the back patio of the late Lee’s South Wales home).
Proving that one person’s trash is indeed another’s treasure, a plinth raised to replicate the height of a pavement displays a cluster of disposable coffee cups, collected by Deckie in varying degrees of deterioration and degradation. Detritus desert islands against the wide open matt white expanse, each discarded takeaway tankard is complete with collaged contributions or accumulations of assorted flotsam and jetsam (a cut-out of the venerated Venus de Milo, a simple string clockface, defunct computer keys). The recognisable red/white colours and distinctive typeface of Tim Hortons, ‘Home of Canada’s favourite coffee’, are particularly prevalent. Apt, perhaps, as the chain is subject to continued criticism for its slow uptake of sustainability initiatives and recent return to the reception of reusable cups, after pausing the practice during the pandemic.