We Are What We Have Left is an unrealized public art proposal in Philadelphia in collaboration with artist, Jessica Maffia. The proposal includes over 50 totems that transform human-generated waste into celebratory monuments and symbolic protectors of the natural world. Rooted in the concept of material transmutation, found plastic objects collected through a series of community engagement cleanups is refigured through processes of melting and mixing. Once cooled and recast, these found plastics are embedded in concrete cast into pillars to create the totems. The plastic waste is radically transformed stripped of its original meaning and offers an alternate interpretation in its new form. These materials reveal a deep sense of collective malaise and forgetting, that what we have left behind is all that we have become, that our waste is greater than the sum of our whole. These transformations are not intended to purely overwhelm but also to inspire.
Visitors are invited to meander through this forest of concrete and plastic and reflect on the possibilities of material metamorphosis. As they wander through the world created from what we have collectively left behind, we hope to impart a sense of duality – an understanding of the individual as part of the collective problem but also as the agent of change to create an alternate trajectory of hope and possibility through care, empathy and transformation. Can we transform the materials of our anthropogenic present to catalyze change for our collective future?