An exhibition by sTo Len at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia residents of the city who contributed to the work by flushing their toilets.
The job that he completed is his first stay in a wastewater treatment plant that “attracts people to their own waste,” said Len.
A collection of photographs, graphics and other objects were on display at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. For example, a pair of brownish swirl prints were created by applying paper to the sediment surface at the AlexRenew Wastewater Treatment Plant, according to the Bay Journal newspaper.
AlexRenew treats a mixture of sewage and rainwater. It conducts wastewater through a series of sedimentation tanks and treatment processes to remove nutrients before discharging it into tributaries of the Potomac River. According to Len, brown media was diverted from thousands of toilets.
“As gross as it may sound, water has an amazing way of making things beautiful,” Len said. "People are like, 'This is beautiful,' and they don't even know what they're looking at. I like to show them that beauty and to educate them."
Alexandria is one of several older cities on the Chesapeake Bay that is working to manage sewers that overflow into local waterways.
To reduce the flow of raw sewage into watercourses, the city is building massive underground tunnels that can hold polluted water until it can be processed at a treatment plant, the Bay Journal reported. The project will increase utility bills, so the city saw an opportunity for the company to work with its Office of the Arts to help attract and inform people.
"How do you connect people to infrastructure that is usually underground and unseen?" asked Monica Billger, a community information and education expert at Alex Renew. "Art can help them develop that appreciation."
The theme of the art ranges from views of the Potomac River to the concrete tunnels and tanks that help to make it cleaner. The management of the treatment plant told Len to wear full protective equipment when setting up the exhibition. The Torpedo Factory exhibition also displayed a range of items Len found in the water or at the plant.
Prepared: Astrid Werbolle