a life in architecture
Last February, the artist Michael Landy systematically destroyed all his possessions in 'Breakdown', a two-week arts event in London.
While researching for this performance, he visited the Oxfam textile reclamation centre, Wastesaver (above), in Huddersfield. 'The first time I went all the workers had gone home and there was this huge empty shed filled with various configurations of conveyor belts, 'he says. (He has been back recently with a BBC film crew to shoot scenes for a film about his work. ) Landy explains how Wastesaver operates. 'It's mainly women who work there. Evidently women are prepared to stand for long periods of time and men aren't.' The women sort through clothes that high street Oxfam outlets have rejected. They sift and grade them according to weight, materials and colour. Once they have amassed a trolley full of garments it is sent down a tunnel, baled and shipped to war-torn areas such as Bosnia, Kosovo or western Africa.
'When the bales arrive in Africa, they are lifted onto the heads of women who may have to walk up to three miles back to villages, and the bales are so heavy that if they drop them on the way they cannot pick them up again, ' says Landy.
'In Breakdown, I destroyed everything - nothing was reused.
The idea of people reusing these things and the lengths they will go to get them really moved me.'
Landy says his possessions now amount to a new pair of trousers and an address book that doubles as a diary.