A human rubbish pile slowly walks through the outer suburban landscape of Melbourne, Australia. It is Scartato by artist Michael Meneghetti, a performance work that blends environmental issues with endurance, psychogeography and body art. ‘Scartato’ means ‘discarded’ in Italian.
Meneghetti is a hard working Australian performance artist. He creates works that require endurance and extreme physical activity. His performances sculptural qualities of altering his figure and the way he moves through an environment with stilts or by carrying heavy things like wooden stocks or a large BBQ, see my post on Performprint.
Scartato was a physical challenge to see how much rubbish he could find and he attach to his body before he couldn’t move. To start in a normal human form that grows larger and is slowly transformed and obscured by rubbish. Each piece of rubbish was attached to his body with packing tape as he “gradually transforming into a human monument of litter.” Michael Meneghetti explained, “Collecting rubbish with packing tape felt very innate somehow. Packing tape is a very playful medium, I especially enjoy the sound it makes.”
I ask Meneghetti how he become interested in ‘fly-tipping’ (illegal rubbish dumping)?
“I have always been fascinated and repulsed by our pollution, especially the kind people make when dumping on the fly. The project really started when I took a series of photos of my Uncle’s piles of rubbish a few years ago, then as I began travelling I started thinking about the kind of art I could make on the road.”
Over six hours Meneghetti collected close to two cubic metres of discarded materials. The rubbish weighed around 80 kilograms (176 pounds) in total very close to his own bodyweight. “I was a little shocked how much rubbish is around.”
I had to ask if he had encountered any mattresses, or larger items?
“Surprisingly I did not, I found a few strange things, but plastic drink bottles and junk food wrappers are probably the most common items discard onto the street. Every piece of junk has a story.”
And what was the strangest object that you found while doing Scartato?
“I found lingerie, a telephone, a dead dog, a wig, christmas decorations, nothing overly wacky, it was all rather conservative trash.”
Scartato was divided into three, two hours expeditions exploring his local neighbourhood. I asked Meneghetti what he did to prepare?
“Warm-up stretches were perhaps the most important steps to prepare for this performance.” Meneghetti’s path was determined by the rubbish he knew about and what he found. He didn’t have to walk very far as he lives close to the freeway. “Each expedition began from my house and gradually I would gravitate towards the more industrial areas and finally hit the nature reserves. On one occasion, I walked around the back of the Altona Cemetery, collecting a lot of post-memorial debris blown over.”
Meneghetti lives in Melbourne’s outer industrial suburb of Brooklyn (not to be confused with the NY suburb of the same name). It is the most polluted suburb in the state and it can smell awful; described in detail in this Environmental Protection Agency report about the Brooklyn Odour meeting on 15 November 2007. Michael told me that: “I feel from living out here that sometimes I live in that Mad Max realm, where society is on the top edge, just before the fall.”
Michael Meneghetti likes the immediacy and portability of performance art. “ I see performance as my own private opera presented publicly that enable me to explore a range of ideas face to face with the audience.”
In conjunction with his performance art Michael Meneghetti also curates videos for various organisations including: Melbourne’s Federation Square, Excerpt Magazine, and Propaganda Window, a peer-funded public art project that ran from 2008-2012 as a dedicated video projection space on the external windows of Melbourne gallery, Dark Horse Experiment. So Scartato concluded with a video of the work projected across three shop front windows in the Eames Avenue shopping strip in Brooklyn with local music outfit, The Renovators providing a live soundtrack.