As a recent graduate of Trash Academy (through DSNY’s Sanitation Foundation) I was particularly moved by my recent trip to Ann Arbor and Detroit, MI. 

At the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), multi-media artist Machine Dazzle debuted the second phase of his 3-phase artwork Ouroboros. It is made of trash collected from Lake Huron, campus recycling, and the mangroves of Florida. Candy wrappers, potato chip bags, water bottles, mylar balloons, toy trucks, Barbie dolls, plastic bag all contained in a coiled structure peppered with 3D-printed penises and vaginas and discarded milk jugs melted to look like molars. I recognize the universality of our human junk - I see (and pick up) all the same items on Rockaway Beach in NYC - but re-contextualized as a morphing thought-piece. Ouroboros is the result of our continuous consumption: each piece of crap symbolizing a moment of usefulness, and even joy, but a lifetime of toxins for planet Earth. As Machine Dazzle puts it, these objects represent the “pleasure cycles of capitalism” that is in a constant state of reproduction.

As Machine Dazzle explains, “Ouroboros reflects my attempt to live in harmony with the unavoidable waste that comes from the parade of humanity. In the end, everything is disposable, all existence is temporal: mementoes of an ancient planet, digitally formed human genitalia, compressed heaps of refuse sitting idle for longer than their intended purpose. It will all become landfill. We are the garbage. The garbage is us. Garbage becomes life itself. Yet strangely, the life I give to these objects gives me life.”

Machine Dazzle created multiple soundtracks composed of sounds of him manipulating (rubbing, stroking, crumpling) trash objects underwater. Sit underneath the center of the hanging sculpture to hear Machine Dazzle whisper text printed on various packaging: a list of unpronounceable ingredients, hyperbolic slogans, and familiar brand names. 

Dazzle developed “Ouroboros” as part of his residency through the  Roman J. Witt Artist in Residence by the Stamps School of Art & Design. 

March 14 marked the official opening of  Machine Dazzle’s Ouroboros exhibition in the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s Irving Stenn, Jr. Family Gallery. April 30 opened the second phase. The third and final act opens on June 14 when the sculpture becomes wearable!

The next day brought a whole other trash extravaganza. The Heidelberg Project on Heidelberg Street, conceived and produced by multi-media artist Tyree Guyton, is a sprawling, ever-morphing public art sculpture park made from the detritus of abandoned and demolished neighborhood homes. Experience, first-hand, art revitalizing a city in this urban form of homesteading. Guyton toured us through past, present, and future visions of the site, but with the always present mantra: the Time is Now!


May 1-2, 2024