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Monday, March 14, 2011

Art from the Trash: Niki Ulehla, Scott Kildall, and Bulk Garbage Night

Posted By on Mon, Mar 14, 2011 at 1:15 PM

  • greenkozi/flickr

On a balmy night in 1993, I was riding my bike from the Horseshoe Café on the lower Haight to my house on Hampshire Street at like 1 in the morning when the Mission was turned into a wonderland. If I told you that unicorns were prancing about or if the drug dealers were just giving the smack away I would be attempting to elicit the same feeling. Everyone opened up the doors to their houses and put TREASURES on the curb. Everyone. There was junk, GOOD junk stacked up on the curb of every house.

  • greenkozi/flickr

There were thousands of people milling through it. You could have made bank selling empty boxes. You could have filled pick-up truck after pick-up truck of good stuff ... if you had a pick-up truck and a place to put all of it. It was bulk garbage night. And it was amazing. There is no bulk garbage night anymore. You just call the garbage people to come when you've got a fridge or a couch or whatever. But they used to have a single night a year in your neighborhood where you could put out anything, any size and they would just take it. It was unbelievable. With tears streaming down my cheeks I ran like a child on Christmas morning from pile to pile just amazed at the shit that was on offer. And the night itself, the very air you breathe was magical. It was t-shirt weather in SF late at night. It was my first year here, so I didn't know that it happened only once in a blue moon. I met people going through those piles. People I am still friends with today. It was a tremendous example of community building. Connoisseurs of fine junk were out perusing and tasting. Sampling. Discussing. All outside of commerce. All outside of judgment. All helping each other. It was crazy. You found some good stuff. And within 3 minutes, you were trading for other good stuff. Better stuff. Laughing the entire time.

I was out all night. People running around. Music playing. THOUSANDS of people in the streets. Zero cops. I waited for the garbage truck to come. I had a plan. I was gonna befriend the garbage truck guy and find out when the next one was, and where. And rent a fucking giant truck. I was going to open a chain of stores called "Bulk Garbage Night" and they were going to be art galleries at night. I had big plans.

The garbage truck guy was a heavyset woman named Lydia. She gave me a lecture on why she wasn't going to tell me what I wanted to know. She told me that if people found out, that they come and make a mess. Keep people awake. Make her job harder. Yada yada. I was crushed. I retorted. I pushed the environmental angle. She shut me down. She told me it was illegal to take garbage from the curb. That that garbage belonged to Sunset Scavenger. No fun.

A few years later, I met a guy. I used to go to auctions at mini storage facilities and buy stuff that was left in lockers when the rent was not paid. By the way, that's where all that bullshit at the flea market comes from, people down on their luck or whacked out on drugs who can't pay the $60 a month to keep their boxes of crap. It's a shitty living, but that's another story for another time. I met a guy who bought stuff at the auctions. He had the junk world dialed in. One day, we were at an auction and he asked me if he could take the stuff he bought and keep it in my van overnight. I said sure, no problem. I asked why. He told me it was because bulk garbage night in Specific Whites (Pacific Heights) was tonight and he needed an empty vehicle. I asked him how he knew, and he told me that he knew Lydia the garbage lady and he paid her to tell him and not tell anyone else.

I had big plans. I made other big plans. I did end up owning a junk store for a little while. On 28th Street. It was called Shuck and Jive. I still build everything out of junk. And I still try to create that amazing feeling of possibility I felt on that night when all the junk you could carry was free. And there is an art gallery at the SF dump.

  • Dana Albany
So you should get out your calender right now and mark down Friday and Saturday May 20 and 21. Set one of those dates aside and go see puppetmaker Niki Ulehla and paper artist Scott Kildall as they open their show. The venue at the dump is quite amazing, if ya didn't know. People come and pick through the pile and create amazing things with our garbage.
  • Dana Albany
It's kinda astounding. Here are some photos of stuff from dump shows in the past. I'll see you there....


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Chicken John


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