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LIANE HANSEN, host:

We stepped out of the NPR building for a few moments to walk up 7th Street and visit the Warehouse. This neighborhood cafe and art space is a comfortable spot for coffee or sandwich. Across from the espresso bar, there's what looks like a gumball machine. But for a quarter, you get more than something to chew on.

(Soundbite of gumball machine)

HANSEN: A little plastic ball, and inside - scrap paper, a memo, and it's a piece of trash. But, as they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. But that's why maybe artist Christopher Goodwyn dreamed up this project. He's here with us.

Chris, first, what is so special about this trash?

Mr. CHRISTOPHER GOODWYN (Artist): Well, it's meant to be a little bit of a commentary, I guess, on our throwaway culture. I'm also very much interested in the sort of secret history of objects that people leave lying around that they discard.

HANSEN: Has trash always been a part of your life?

Mr. GOODWYN: I guess I've always had an affinity for trash, yes. I think it's rooted, perhaps, when I was a kid. And the garbage men, who kind of struck me as these tough neck guys, would occasionally let me ride around with the truck with them. And they have this whole section of their truck devoted to the things that they kept.

HANSEN: Looks like you have a bag of trash balls. Does this machine need some refilling?

Mr. GOODWYN: It does. I just spent...

HANSEN: Can I see it?

Mr. GOODWYN: Certainly.

HANSEN: This is the first time I actually get to look at what's inside without paying a quarter. The stamp is in that one.

Mr. GOODWYN: Stamps is an old Canadian health service medicine bottle label.

HANSEN: Is it mostly paper you'll find?

Mr. GOODWYN: Yes. Mostly. Most of the things that aren't paper can't easily be folded up and put inside one of these cans...

HANSEN: This is audio tape.

Mr. GOODWYN: It is. It's perfect for you.

HANSEN: It is perfect for me. So I'm going to try again.

Mr. GOODWYN: Please.

HANSEN: See what I get.

(Soundbite of gumball machine)

HANSEN: (Unintelligible) got a coin. Ten pesos.

Mr. GOODWYN: There you go.

HANSEN: One thing and I got - you gave me another coin in here. I don't know -is this...

Mr. GOODWYN: I think that may just be a lead slug.

HANSEN: I think it's a slug. Oh, these are very cool. What kind of experience do you want people to have when they come and use your machine?

Mr. GOODWYN: Well, I want people to think about, particularly if it's one of less banal pieces, like, where it's been. And a coin is a perfect example, like, what is the history of that, all the different hands it's been in, all the different transactions it's gone through. And now it's ended up rather damaged as you can see.

HANSEN: Yeah, it looks like it's had a very hard life. It's all chipped and...

Mr. GOODWYN: And you just gave me a quarter for it. So...

HANSEN: You win.

Mr. GOODWYN: I'm laughing all the way to the bank.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOODWYN: Christopher Goodwyn is an artist based here in Washington. And thanks a lot for the trash.

Mr. GOODWYN: Certainly. There's more where that came from.

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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