Forty-Two Street Friends

What happens when 42 strangers leave you gifts in the streets of New York City? Naively mistaken as trash by most, this library rescues these precious artifacts. The light bulb acts as an investigative tool to extract the narratives from these objects - to know who left them and why they left them specifically for me to find.

Completion: 14 October 2022
Duration: 3 weeks

The Lightbulb as a Tool
The lightbulb, a staple household component, is the central element of this library. One standard LED is used to find narratives hidden behind abandoned trash objects, inviting exploration and reflection. The trash is transformed into a source of intrigue, as 42 items reveal their history and significance. Through the simple act of illumination, the lightbulb becomes a tool for storytelling, giving voice to the discarded.  Which is very important in a world where all interpersonal relationships are made exclusively through people’s trash.

Process of Object Collection
A 20 minute walk down 14th street was sufficient. An attempt was made to gather objects that were unique to each other and found in different spots to ensure I was meeting all new people. Each object was carefully rescued with the use of surgical gloves. None of the pieces were damaged in any way, all their irregularities and dirt preserved.

Valid Clues
Each object is tagged with a friend number; for example, the New Yorker Cat Cartoons book is friend #22. In no way do the numbers assimilate any ranking or hierarchy. The color, form and intensity of the light emitted, or sometimes the lack of light, are all valid clues to tell you more about your new friend.

Questions to Consider
  1. What kind of a relationship are they seeking by leaving me this three legged toy giraffe?
  2. By recommending the Trader Joe’s coconut milk, are they suggesting we meet up there?
  3. Could a used blue surgical glove mean they had a very difficult day at the ER and need to watch a movie?
  4. Why was I compelled to pick up handwritten physics notes rather than the Capital One envelope right next to it?

Forty-Two Friends
Forty-Two Street Friends is about the celebration of trash in New York City, as a last resort to cope with the glum realities. It builds on the existing curiosities of “where does all this trash come from” and further speculates which individuals leave it there. So far I have made 42 one-sided friendships, but I’m sure at a landfill in Malaysia or a beach in India, the west’s dumping ground, I can make a million more.


Research conducted under the guidance of award-winning designer and architect, Allan Wexler. Author of Absurd Thinking: Between Art and Design.

Works Cited:

Chillag, Ian. “Vinny, Vending Machine”. Everything Is Alive. Season1, Episode 32. Radiotopia. September 22, 2021.

Harman, Graham. Tool-being: Heidegger and the Metaphyics of Objects. Chicago: Open Court, 2002.

Mars, Roman, and Kurt Kohlstedt. The 99% Invisible City: A field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020.

Visit to Mmuseumm, a modern natural history museum located in lower Manhattan in New York City, dedicated to "Object Journalism”.