537 kilograms. That’s the amount of waste a single person produces each year. From diapers to glass, from plastic to paper: waste often tells us more about who we are than we would usually dare to admit.

Commissioned by GRAS, Melle Smets and Bram Esser developed the VAD – Garbage Analytics Service for the Noorderzon festival in Groningen. They went on a summer-long internship with the garbage collectors of the city of Groningen. They swept the streets, sorted bulky waste and made digistate. 

At the Noorderzon festival, the VAD opened the Garbage centre for anyone struggling to cut loose from their unused stuff. In its self-built separation station, the VAD provided a fitting farewell. Every evening there was a dazzling performance with ‘the bag of the day, garbage goodbye stories, facts and figures,’ to playfully confront visitors with the hard facts of garbage. 

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Location Noorderzon festival, Groningen

Period 2012

Commisioned by Platform Gras
Team Bram Esser, Melle Smets
Jingles P.M. Schaap
Assistent Cecile
Special thanks to Nis Baar, Piet Ottens, Richard Oosterloo, Onno de Jong, Gert Bron

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Action research

Every project starts with a location exploration with an artistic intervention. Actions are an effective method to reveal complex relations within communities and their habitat. Claim a land and you’ll know who is who.

Design and prototype

Learning from actions shape ideas for more precise interventions with prototypes. The prototypes are tools to practice new idea’s in shaping a new narrative to understand the habitat.


Artistic practice can bring awareness, implement new ideas, and provide hands on solutions to spark change. To make an new idea thrive a project has to be embraced by the community, and has to be grounded in the commons. This approach demands a long time commitment.


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