Opinion

Discarded things deserve a second chance... that goes for people too

Street artist My Dog Sighs is on a mission to give items considered worthless a new lease of life

My Dog Sighs

Artist My Dog Sighs. Photo: supplied

Ever had the feeling you’re lost? The sat nav on your phone thinks you’re somewhere 500 miles away, you don’t recognise the buildings around you and nine times out of 10, you’re late to where you’re supposed to be.

It’s much the same if you’re like me and are forever losing something. The frantic search for a lost passport or keys I was sure I’d left on the side but are now nowhere to be found. That password that just won’t embed itself in my memory and slips into a black hole in my mind.

Whether it’s physically, emotionally or metaphorically, the reaction is the same. Helplessness, frustration, defeat.

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The flip side is the sheer euphoria when/if you find the thing you thought was lost forever. The satisfaction of recognising a place and realising where you are; the buzz of achieving that career step you’ve worked so hard for; finding your tribe; putting on that jacket you rarely wear and discovering those missing keys. It’s a fleeting high (and we’re all too often too much in a rush to notice it) but it’s there.  

As an artist, I’ve spent 20 years exploring those emotional connections between loss and rediscovery. Be it bringing lost items into a new existence or reimagining lost spaces and building a new narrative through paint and imagination. I’ve even played with hiding artworks, setting them free in the hope that a fleeting high can be had by the lucky finder.  

When The Big Issue asked me to guest edit this special art supplement, I instantly saw parallels between my creative attempts and their ethos of helping those struggling and lost to work themselves to a position where they can find themselves and their place/purpose. 

As I delved deeper, choosing features for the magazine, I discovered other artists, creative thinkers, musicians and projects reimagining the lost and turning it into something of value and purpose. 

Of course, I’m pretty sure the password is lost forever. But hey, that’s what the ‘reset your password’ option is for, right?

I did a TED talk once and the evening before the speech all the TED contributors gathered to share a meal. I sat in awe as each one explained in turn what they were here to talk about. Scientists, engineers, life-saving doctors, all changing the world. The fear and imposter syndrome hit me like a brick and when I was asked what I was there to give my talk on, I explained that I “stamped on baked bean tins, painted them then left them on the street”. It was only talking to a friend later that I realised that maybe my work had a purpose beyond the physical act of painting squashed cans. That I took something once useful and sustaining but now discarded, and I gave it a second chance, a chance to echo the potential in our lives. 

Later I walked past someone homeless and living on the street. That person was someone’s daughter, sister, niece, and for whatever reason, they’d become lost. With a bit of effort, time and love I could turn a discarded can into something of value. What if we could do the same with everything/one lost?

My Dog Sighs is an acclaimed street artist. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

This year’s art special edition of The Big Issue, curated by My Dog Sighs and featuring his exclusive artwork on the cover, is on the streets from 10 July. Find your local vendor here. Throughout that week we will be sharing more stories from artists and activists who are reclaiming the lost. Read those stories here.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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