The girl who never threw anything away

Author: Kate Watts

The Girl Who Never Threw Anything Away

Katherine Dorothy Watts
30 August 2019

Watts, K. D. (2019). The Girl Who Never Threw Anything Away. (An abstract for a dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the Master of Visual Arts at Dunedin School of Art, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand). 


My project is an exploration in the medium of textiles of a pile of cardboard boxes in the corner of my studio (hereafter called The Pile).

The Pile is comprised of an enormous heap of boxes in the corner of my studio. It is around seven car loads of boxes, and at its largest it was 4.5 m long, 1.8m high and 1.5m deep. The boxes are the result of a series of moves, from house to house, studio to studio. It is a pile of things that I don’t seem to need but haven’t yet thrown away, items that are not wanted but not yet disposed of, in a kind of limbo.

When I began working with The Pile, I was expecting to find many items with small ‘importances,’ linked together in a web of personal narrative. As a hoarder in a family of hoarders, I have long acknowledged an attachment to inanimate objects – almost everything has a story attached. A chronological context, connections to people, often family members, a relationship to place.  But as I started going through the boxes all I found was an enormous pile of unwanted stuff.

Throughout this essay I will be discussing the evolution from this starting point to my final works. I will be talking about the concepts, materials, themes and methodology that relate to my work, and how my research has affected the decisions I have made with my sculptures. I will be discussing materiality, through artists Karla Black and Mikala Dwyer, as well as introducing theorists Gray and Malins and Nancy de Freitas on the subject of art practice as research.

Throughout my MVA, our relationship with our possessions and hoarding have remained as central concepts, so I will be introducing the work of hoarding researchers Randy Frost and Gail Sketekee. I will be briefly covering three exhibitions that have hoarding as a key theme - Song Dong’s Waste Not, The Keeper at The New Museum, and Ilya and Emilia’s work The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away.

As my work moves into new territory, I discuss my research within Minimalism and Post Minimalism through an investigation of the works of Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, and Donald Judd, and installation art with Karla Black and Mikala Dwyer. I will also be looking at the work of two other artists whose work relates to mine, through either the themes or the visual strategies they use within their work. These artists are Rachel Whiteread, and Alan Shields. For each artist I will be discussing a specific artwork and aspects of their studio methodologies and approach to materiality.

In my conclusion I will be reflecting the different strategies I employed in the development of my works, and on how the above artists and theorists influenced the final sculptures. I will also be discussing the aspects which I feel are successful and unsuccessful in my work.

Keywords: textile, installation, art, hoarding, possessions, post-minimalism

Kate Watts' supervisor was Jane Venis.


The abstract is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence CC BY-NC 4.0 International. The thesis is not publicly available online. 

 Creative Commons License