Care Package

Photo: Magdalena Miłosz

This installation for Steel Rails 16 invites participants to build a styrofoam room inside a shipping container at a former industrial site in Kitchener, Ontario. Taking from a huge pile of styrofoam collected mainly from Kitchener curbs over a number of weeks, contributors install their pieces (as-is, carved, or otherwise altered) on an illuminated armature on the walls and ceiling. Musician Ben Grossman turns styrofoam and other objects found on the site into speakers and musical instruments, creating an industrial soundscape within the container. After the event, 45 kg of styrofoam was taken to be recycled at the Erb Street landfill in Waterloo.

Thank you to all the trusty volunteers on this installation!

From the artist statements:


Expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as styrofoam, is a locally abundant material with versatile aesthetic characteristics. It is typically found at curbs in different urban areas on different days of the week. If one wishes to harvest EPS daily (except weekends), one could draw a map of the city indicating where and when the EPS will be available.


This material is a negative of the things we consume on a regular basis, rendered unfamiliar because of its fragmentation and inversion. It is as if the space around these objects has been solidified into a neutral, white form. I read care in the creation of these forms, meant solely to softly hold our future possessions, to ensure their safe transit from halfway around the world and arrival, unbroken, in our homes.




“Mealworms have been shown to be able to eat polystyrene and degrade it within their larval gut.”

– Wikipedia


The Region of Waterloo’s curbside “blue box” recycling program was started in Kitchener in 1983. If one places a piece of EPS in one’s blue box, Region staff may kindly leave a sticker on it indicating that this material is not accepted. Instead, it must be brought to one of two landfill sites for recycling. If, however, one places the EPS together with the rest of one’s garbage, it will be taken away.


Visitors to this container are invited to select a piece or pieces they find interesting and “deliver” them to the wall in a place of their choosing.



Ben Grossman builds a live soundscape with objects collected around the site of this year’s Steel Rails.  Normally silent industrial detritus is coaxed into vibration, turning the space both inside out and upside down.  Found contributions are welcomed and will be incorporated into the soundscape.