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Courtesy of Iain Baxter&


Ever mindful of the issues at stake in consumer society, Baxter& has produced several works and taken various actions that speak to his commitment as an artist, often anchored in a socio-economic, consumerist reality. In 1996 he developed the first version of the installation Techno Compost, in the atrium of a shopping mall. Simple in design, consisting of a chain-link enclosure set up in the public space, the installation-in-progress provided curious passers-by with a striking vision: a graveyard of electronic and computer gear. Moreover, the content of the piece was designed to “self-develop,” with members of the public invited to throw their own obsolete electronic equipment onto the heap. This collectively designed sculpture is about the rapid obsolescence of these devices, victims of the furious advance of technology. Here the aesthetic experience consists in watching this strange sculptural assembly takes shape.

An ironic reflection, [Techno Compost is] consistent with the articles of NETCO’s incorporation document of 16 January 1969: 

(ii) To provide a consultation and evaluation service with respect to things: 

(iii) To produce, manufacture, import, export, sell, and otherwise deal in things of all kinds 

Techno Compost actualizes these objectives within an ubiquitous chainlink enclosure, a vulgarized Noah’s Ark in the mall. Baxter invites all to bring their tired, weary and discarded goods — computers, toasters, lamps, televisions, musical instruments — things no longer recognizable, or whose function can no longer be unraveled in the clamour and tumult of art in everyday life.

The decision to discard something is far from being a simple decision. Like each fundamental type of action, it appears in the experience of every day. It is a reversal of values. Though the thing once was necessary, discarded it becomes litter or scrap. What once was valuable now is worthless; the desirable now offends; the beautiful now is seen as ugly.

The location of the place is the mall, where we come to replace these discarded objects. But the promise of endless pleasure, comfort, consumption, and distraction cannot be extracted from this compost. By the same token, it is untrue to its name. The goods are in stasis, a limbo, and will never return to their base components, metals, or minerals. As a place, the Techno Compost is part of life’s mystery — and in this case, the white elephant burial grounds. Given our limitless industrial machine, Baxter’s place could be expanded to gigantic proportions — to the compass points, or straight up to reach the moon and beyond. Imagine a trashway to the stars.

Baxter has orchestrated the Techno Compost with glee. He asks that we give him everything we don’t want and he will make a place for it.

Originally published for the Art Gallery of Windsor exhibition, Iain Baxter,
Products, Place, Phenomenon: 30 March – 9 June 1996.
Subsequently shown at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, 16 September 1997 – 22 February 1998. Text corrections made July 2002.
Posted with permission of the Art Gallery of Windsor

Techno Compost sounds simplistic at first-a chain link fence surrounding a graveyard of old computers, printers and other electronic junk-but he staged it in 1996, before we had the convenience to dump our chemical-laden laptops in a safe spot. Always conscious of our consumerist zealousness, BAXTER& invited people to add to the installation by throwing out their own gadgets. He urges us to play with his ideas. He wants us to wonder how we can add another layer to a piece of art that should be anything but static.


[1]      Jean, Marie-Josée. “Iain Baxter&.” VOX Contemporary Imageno. 16, September 2005.

[2]      Holubizky, Igor. “This Is the Place: on Iain Baxter and The N.E. Thing Co.” CCCA Canadian Art Database. Concordia University, 1996. http://ccca.concordia.ca/c/writing/h/holubizky/hol001t.html.

[3]       Silverberg, David. “Don’t Forget the Ampersand.” Don’t Forget the Ampersand – Broken Pencil. Accessed July 19, 2021. https://brokenpencil.com/features/dont-forget-the-ampersand/.

Additional information:

“2003.” The Works International Visual Arts Society. Accessed July 19, 2021. https://www.theworks.ab.ca/2003.


Durham, Dennis. “Iain Baxter & and N E Thing Co: a Study in Pop-Inflected Conceptual Art.” Thesis, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2011.

IAIN BAXTER&: Works 1958-2011. Vimeo, 2021. https://vimeo.com/32517879.

“Iain Baxter.” VOX. Accessed July 19, 2021. http://centrevox.ca/fd/baxter/en/projet_23.html.

“The Works Art & Design Festival 2005.” Preview The Gallery Guide Previews. Accessed July 19, 2021. http://preview-art.com/oldsite/previews/06-2005/Works.html.

Project Title: Techno Compost
Artists:  Iain Baxter&
Year: 1996-1998

Windsor Art Gallery (Devonshire Mall location)
Windsor, Ontario

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