Orson Welles v. The Burning Dumpster

Transcendental Shame over a Burning Dumpster

The whole Orson Welles body of work is quarter turn past gleeful tempting of the fates to flex their irony muscles. A bit of theater, a bit self-delusion, a bit of trolling. It’s about genius, holy icons, idolatry, martyrdom, infamy and celebrity; it’s about me, self-destruction, self-reflection, self-aggrandizement.

These paintings and the book originally appeared in mid 2007 at Sala Diaz in San Antonio. The vinyl-letter people who put the title and the artist onto the window misspelled both mine and Orson’s last name.

Self Portrait as Orson Welles #4Self Portrait as Orson Welles #1Self Portrait as Orson Welles #2Self Portrait as Orson Welles #3Self Portrait as Orson Welles #5Self Portrait as Orson Welles #6Self Portrait as Orson Welles #8Self Portrait as Orson Welles #7Self Portrait as Orson Welles #9


5" × 7.5" (when closed)
single-sheet cyanotype book


Teh TrialPortrait of the Artist as Orson Welles

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Text reads:

Transcendental Shame over a Burning Dumpster

Once upon a time, there was a burning dumpster. I stumbled upon it in blissful ignorance. There it stood—right by the sidewalk, in its shallow little dumpster pen with a dumpster buddy—hot and uneasy and reeking of carbonized milky mulch.

And I was ashamed. Ashamed that it was mine. Ashamed to have it fill my sinuses and my city with stink. By far I was most ashamed by its location; it was right across the street from the Nikola Tesla museum. I was ashamed that both it and Tesla are artifacts of my ethnic heritage. Ashamed that I can’t claim one and pass up on the other. Ashamed that the pearls come with the swine.

Weird, disembodied and funny, this shame had no precedent. In its stead, there used to be no misplaced nostalgia or cartoony nationalism (so commonly found in the diaspora), and I never bothered to assimilate elsewhere. The paradigm based on impartiality, objectivity, freedom and universal "otherness" through which I looked at everything was useless in the face of the dumpster—and either disingenuous or unattainable otherwise.

I’d seen burning dumpsters in the Balkans before, but never in the real world. A part of me wants to rationalize it away as a means to increase the capacity of said dumpster. So, whoever set it on fire has a stake in there being enough room in the dumpster shortly thereafter. That means that this person lives close by and also dislikes leaving bags of trash next to the full dumpster, which would in turn mean that he or she is conscientious about littering—but paradoxically doesn’t mind that the wider neighborhood smells like hell—sulfur, brimstone, rotten flesh and all.

I don’t own the stupidity I see over here, it just happens around me, like an unpleasant weather phenomenon. Over there, all stupidity takes place in my name, like the Original Sin.

All genius, however, is accidental. Tesla is a paragon of the potential of my quaint little people. The burning dumpster, alas, is its fact.

And there they stood, juxtaposed. As I walked past the museum late that night, I would’ve been proud were it not for the shame.

Creative Commons License Everything here is made by a Stevan Živadinović
of some sort, or otherwise righteously stolen.