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Single Stream

by Paweł Wojtasik, Toby Lee, Ernst Karel



Single Stream takes a close look at the problem of waste, through a visual and sonic exploration of a recycling facility. The title refers to the “single stream” method of recycling in which all types of recyclables are initially gathered together, and sorted later at a specialized facility. With Single Stream, viewers enter one of the largest of these materials recovery facilities in the US. Inside a cavernous building, a vast machine complex runs like clock-work, sorting a steady stream of glass, metal, paper and plastic carried on conveyor belts criss-crossing the space, dotted with workers in neon vests. The interwoven movements of human and machine produce sounds and images that are overwhelming, but also beautiful, and even revelatory. Blurring the line between observation and abstraction, Single Stream is a meditation on our society's culture of excess and its consequences.


Project History 

Single Stream is a collaboration between Paweł Wojtasik, Toby Lee, and Ernst Karel. It was originally produced as a large-scale video installation, exhibited at the Museum of the Moving Image in NYC (July-November 2013). The theatrical version of Single Stream (CinemaScope 4K, 5.1 surround sound) was completed in 2014 and differs from the installation version in both form and content.

The starting point for Single Stream was Ernst Karel’s 2011 sound work Materials Recovery Facilityrecorded at the Casella single-stream sorting facility in Charlestown, Massachusetts.