TATTFOO: Your Neighborhood Master Composter

Posted in Arario New York by arariogallery on July 19, 2010

Worms? Dirt? DIY compost?! HM.

Master Composter, Tattfoo Tan, honored us with his presence this past Thursday evening (July 15th) and spoke to gallery patrons about creating your own compost bin at home. He actually maintains a bin here inside the gallery, live worms and all. Bring a small container to take a few free live worms home with you! Though I did not have the pleasure of listening in on the complete step-by-step procedure due to monitoring the gallery, I did happen to step in as he was saying how great worms are for your compost because they “sleep, eat, have sex, and poop all day”… really?? Even with a few chuckles from his audience, Master Tattfoo was completely serious and proceeded to pile on the layers of fruit peels, newspapers, and worms.

Post-discussion of composting, I spoke with him briefly and emailed a few more questions later on. I truly admire his work, as an artist and composter. He is what his website states: “Tattfoo, artist, cultural worker, social sculpture, relational aesthetic,” and more.

  • As stated on your website, you explore the individual in society. By creating eco-friendly practices and deriving projects from these practices, are you creating art or a way of life? Are your eco-projects a way of exploring individuals and their behaviors/reactions in society?

[TT] Yes, I’m blurring the boundary of art and life. Today, art is no longer a physical object. Even if it is an attractive art object, the artist might not even have his hand in the production of that object. I take a step  further by empowering the viewer to participate and design or work on the art itself. I became a facilitator and the participants is now also an artist and experience art like never before, where before, he or she is just a spectator and walk away and leave the art in the white cube gallery or museum. I believe, art should be able to share, create a chance to be rework, to reconfigure and enjoy by everyone and everywhere. Keep that in mind, I design my projects to be able to reincarnate in another location and another time.

When a participants join the project, he or she took a small leap of faith and an effort to make the project happen. That effort might be small, but that little effect is what we need to make the world a better place. In-directly the participants became the ambassador for the project and spread the green message and knowledge.

  • After exploring your website and witnessing your art pieces first hand along with your gallery talk, I feel that your art transpires into many different levels as you intend it to. For example, the making of art is a shared experience, projects are “ephemeral and conceptual in nature”, and in addition to yourself, you teach others to give back to nature and practice conservation. Do you keep specific goals in mind when creating your projects or are you surprised (and pleased) with the various outcomes?

[TT] I do set a certain expectation and plan accordingly, trying to communicate the message and trying to make fun in the process. In contradiction, I do welcome mistakes, unexpected perspective, opposing ideas and results. I do not strive to create a masterpiece. It is only an exercise and always improving as the project progress and redone, and challenge in another venue or medium.

When I start a project, I try to investigate which is the best medium to express the message. I usually will have to research and learn the skill to equip me to execute the project. I prefer to work this way, in contrast to the traditional notion of an artists in skillful worker in a medium ie: drawing, painting or photography. By do so, I believe if I can learn the know-how and acquire the skill easily, everyone else should be able do it too, making everyone an artist.

  • How long have you been teaching composting? Are the use of worms the only and best way to create an indoor compost?

[TT] I have been doing it for about 2 years. Vermi-compost is best technique for indoor composting. Well, at least it is the cheapest.

  • Are step by step procedures available on your website?

[TT] Yes, do log on to for step-by-step instruction.

  • Will your future projects continue to include eco-conscious practices or something else altogether?

[TT] S.O.S. Sustainable. Organic. Stewardship. had taken precedence in my art practice, but I do explore other topics and subjects in my other projects.
My next project will be S.O.S. Mobile Classroom where I retrofit a cargo bike with educational materials, a mobile gardena, even a chicken coop. I’ll be a green monger and will be visiting fair, school and community events to educate and change the world one peddle at a time. Do come to fi:af: Crossing the Line Festival, 2010,  Farm City, September 12 at The Invisible Dog Gallery in Brooklyn.

  • What can you tell us about next Thursday evening’s gallery talk?

[TT] If you are interested in growing your own food, or social justice, or the blurring the line of art and life, this is the time to have a discussion about these issues.
It will [be] a casual events, feels free to network bring postcard of your own efforts or shows, we [want] to get to know each other and sharing of knowledge and resources.

July 22, 7pm
Conversation about Urban Gardening with:

Derek Deckla, curator and activist
Andrew Casner, an urban farmer and artist
Daniel Bowman Simon, activist
Aki Baker, designer and activist

I want to thank Tattfoo for sharing his ecological knowledge on composting. His philosophy on blurring the lines between art and life are admirable, and something to think about with consideration of an artist’s audience. People want to be involved and understand either the artist’s message or the art itself, or both! Ananda Coomaraswamy used the Shakers as an example of art as a way of life or life as a way of art. No matter what a person does in life, if they focus and apply their energy into it (may it be a physician, a sculptor, a dancer, or a construction worker), what they produce and the act of producing are art.

Check out more of Tattfoo this Thursday and on his website (thorough info on his projects and plenty of photos).


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