L e f t O u t
Left Out appears as a person sitting down, cross-legged, in a large, black trash bag. As a social experiment of bystander intervention, Maxwell placed the sculpture on the streets of London and started filming. The footage of this work and of the public’s reactions of non-reactions has been unimaginable. Various edits of the original footage have gone viral, altogether the footage has been viewed over 30 million time and has been shared by over 4 million people . . . and counting.
By changing the perspective of how society views homeless people, Maxwell returns the empathy we should feel for those without anything and reinvigorates societies determination to put an end to homelessness.
“It’s not an individual, it doesn’t have a face, it’s not male or female, you can think of it as anyone displaced, needing help,” Maxwell explains. “It doesn’t illustrate culture or creed. It’s about humanity.”
Maxwell placed his sculpture across London (Westminster Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Bank and Waterloo). On each occasion he observed the public’s reactions as they past, some stopping to investigate what they thought was a person in a bin-bag, whilst others would simply walk on.
“Half of all who noticed it showed some sort of concern, the other half of the public would just return their gaze back onto the pavement and continue walking. Perhaps we’ve become desensitised to suffering? Our mentalities seem to be divided in how desensitised to are to the suffering of others.”
It is not one person’s or groups job to end homelessness, but every individual person’s. Therefore the art of Maxwell’s sculpture Left Out is not in the sculpture itself, but in the reactions from passers-by.
“There’s a message about people being disposable. It’s quite a shocking a image. It’s the idea we see homeless people as garbage, not that we necessarily do but it’s challenging, more so than actually seeing a person.”
– A member of the public, Westminster Bridge.
Left Out, 2015 – 2016.
Dimensions: 60cm (W) x 60cm (H) x 60cm (L).
Materials: Jesmonite cast incased in a bin liner.
Original 6 minute cut
Filmed and edited by Liam Thomson
Selected Syndication Highlights
Artist Maxwell Rushton has created a sculpture called Left Out
that challenges our attitudes towards the homeless and the less fortunate
A bag of rubbish sits on the street. You do a double take as you realise that it actually does look like it is sitting. The shape of a person can be seen under the polythene. What do you do?
Maxwell Rushton has created a sculpture called Left Out, a cast of a human figure covered in a bin bag, but the artwork is not so much the object but rather the reactions it evokes in passers-by.
“The art does lie in the viewer and their reactions – or non-reactions,” Rushton says. “Roughly 70 per cent of people would notice it and then out of those, half reacted. That could be from looking over their shoulder to running over and trying to ‘save’ it, ripping the bin bag off. The other half would look at it and walk on.”
His sister Frankie worked for a time with Big Issue vendors in Leeds so the issue of homelessness has always been in his mind. He got the idea for Left Out last year after he walked out of a shop, tripped over a bin bag and spun around to apologise it, thinking it was a homeless person on the streets.
“A weird feeling of dread stayed with me for a few weeks,” Rushton recalls. “How I saw the homeless after that was significantly different afterwards and I wanted to create a visual cue that would offer that same impact of that experience.”
So far Rushton has taken Left Out onto the streets of London twice and recorded the reactions of the public.
“It’s not an individual, it doesn’t have a face, it’s not male or female, you can think of it as anyone displaced, needing help,” Rushton explains. “It doesn’t illustrate culture or creed. It’s about humanity.”
At a time that divisions are being drawn between people and nations, Left Out makes us all consider how we treat those less fortunate than ourselves while exposing the indifference of others.
“Seeing others walk past – I hope that frightens people,” Rushton says. “Then they can ask, ‘Who would I be?’ and go and prove to themselves that they would be the person who cares.”