Jennifer Nelson has been collecting her family’s packaging and material waste for a year. The resulting volume and mass of this procedure is well beyond the artist’s body size and weight. From May to September, Nelson will be sculpting this discarded material into forms that can be worn on the body, with the goal being for her to be able to carry it. In this way the process directly compares an individual’s material waste to the individual’s bodily scale. How much trash did I produce? It is also a form of accountability–to literally shoulder the burden of the consequences of our way of life.
To do this, Nelson reassesses the materials we use daily, thoughtlessly and only once–reclaiming their material and energetic value. Rather than being in denial about the trash, disguising or ignoring it as we do as a society, Waste (Inheritance) is a process open to the public. Visitors are welcome to enter a temporary studio within the Project Room to examine and craft with these materials, or simply to sit and discuss. Within this practice, the artist will be studying the lifecycles of these materials. A sheet of clingwrap, for instance, has an origin, a production-based energy cost and waste products of its own. It also has an environmental legacy, the costs of which are usually left to be reckoned with in the future. Nelson argues that these materials are a collective sculpture that can only be judged when we look at the implications of the material across its full lifecycle.
The Project Room will also host a small reading room with articles and books that track the origins and effects for a variety of materials to share with the public. Experts from different fields are invited to analyse the materials from their disciplinary frames of valuing. How does the archaeologist interpret the mass vs someone from waste management? What does it mean for an economist or a grief counsellor? Nelson invites us to look at this material anew utilizing a holistic perspective or our multiple intelligences. After all, this cumulative mass, this trash is the inheritance we leave for the future.
Jennifer Nelson’s cross-disciplinary works probe the potential of social and ecological choreography. She explores the consequences of collective, often unconscious behaviours and also links individually experienced suffering to systemic processes. Having lived and worked in multiple countries, Nelson has an inherent understanding of fragile resources, natural and human, and the global sculptural flow of power and matter. Her approach is to link and translate these global flows to a bodily scale, where it can be understood ethically. The artist utilizes a performative approach to reimagine social choreographies, activate the voice as a site of resistance and healing, and reappropriate society’s repressed materials to recuperate their physical and psychic energy. She is committed to the playful realignment of social spaces through collective initiative, and to the transformative possibilities of the individual act. Her deep-rooted interest in co-creation, and its political, aesthetic and social possibilities, extends throughout her practice as artist and teacher.
Jennifer Nelson was born in Pennsylvania and has lived and worked in Athens since 2004. She studied New Genres at the San Francisco Art Institute and at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she received her MFA; she has been the recipient of a Guggenheim grant for Visual Arts; she was also an artist-in-residence at the Stiftung Laurenz-Haus in Basel, and at the Grand Central Art Centre, Cal State University Fullerton; she is currently a faculty member at the American College of Greece where she helped to found the Visual Arts Program. As a performer, Nelson danced with the Feld Ballet in New York and the Ballet du Grand Théatre in Geneva, Switzerland.
Selected exhibitions and screenings have been held at Goethe Institut Athen: Everything is in a State of Change, Jennifer Nelson / Janis Rafa; Athens Conservatory: Anatomy of Political Melancholy II; Museo MADRE and State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki: Transit-4, Project Room, Kotsaras and Nelson / Tibaldi; ASU Art Museum Social Studies 7: Jennifer Nelson Securing a Free State: The Second Amendment Project; The Box Gallery, Los Angeles: Ring / Nelson For The Birds; Benaki Museum: (Out)topias, Performance and Public Space; De Young Museum, San Francisco: Social Dream Lab ( From Athens, Greece); BOZAR, Belgium: No Country for Young Men: Contemporary Greek Art in Times of Crisis; London Greek Film Festival; Minikino Film Festival, Bali Indonesia; EMΣT Αthens: Expanded Ecologies: Perspectives in a time of crisis; Open Art Gallery, Beijing: Open Art 10th International Performance Art Festival week 6; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf: Compilation I, Rosa Barba, Jeanne Faust, Jennifer Nelson; Galerie Nasional, Jakarta: Indonesian International Performance Art Event, Birds Migration; Thessaloniki International Film Festival.
You can find more information and updates for the Jennifer Nelson’s project here