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by Kat kAT tAT & Anna Dubra
Trash... What is it about? And what does it mean to use it as an artistic material?
The mystical world of semi-precious objet trouvés, old furniture and re-painted
junk, put together into new formations and absurd creations, arrangements
built from debris, triangles, fluo, speakers, tubes, wires, keys from computers
and an old plastic piano. It forces visitors be part of this -- at the same time
super futuristic and antique -- music-making or something else-making machine of wonderful imagination. You can’t be sure of what it serves for, only that
it serves the purpose to produce innovative and very, very creative stuff (you
can interact with, but how?). Dreams? Visions, more likely. Which actually is
pretty much what the whole philosophy of TRASH is all about.
TRASH is a movement. Together with many other artists as well as VJs,
DJs, bands, and fashion designers, the “trashers” gather around the idea of
‘cultural recycling’ as a way ‘to create something intrinsically unique’: “To give
discarded artifacts a new life and destination by finding new use for them, reinventing their realities”, is a statement about TRASH NOLOGY, an artistic
concept that culminates in events designed to be parties. “The message is
trashing the limits, of artifacts, and of different scenes and social circles. Artists
and artist groups can join the ritual, united by the fact that they are all part of a
cultural recycling process, meaning they utilize whichever tool or means, new
and old, known and innovative, to create something intrinsically unique.”
What will follow. is: An interdisciplinary discourse about art, TRASH and
its definition, and a description of an alternative vision of reality in a specially
recycled in-depth format. Enjoy!
PERDON QUE ES IN INGLES... SALIO ASI.
PIDO DESCULPAS Y ESPERO QUE LO DISFRUTEN IGUAL.
A lot of artists who use trash in their art apply this as a symbol of something. Not saying
that all trash-art has the same meaning; There is trash and there is TRASH . Streets
are loitered with objects, as rich societies discard used yet completely intact and fine items
with ease. Things can be gathered wherever you go down to the fact that repairing - apparently - is more costly than buying new things altogether. This cultural habit is ironic, and
questionable, and it opens a lot of room for discussion. In poor countries, the situation is
more desperate; trash provides s a livelihood for many. The poorest of the poor rummage
through the leftovers of a very divided society and handpick whatever they can sell or
$•%& TRASH MANIF3$T ))(%$•$
&)^ WANTING NEW OBJECTS BUT NOT BEING ABLE TO HAVE THEM MAKES YOU (RE-)
THINK WHY YOU WANT THEM, HOW YOU WANT THEM AND HOW YOU CAN MAKE THEM
!”” GIVE ARTIFACTS A NEW LIFE AND DESTINATION BY FINDING NEW USE (AND USERS)
FOR THEM, REINVENT THEIR AND OUR REALITIES.
*$% GO FIND YOUR OWN LIFE!
%$% UTILIZE WHICHEVER TOOL OR MEANS, NEW OR OLD, KNOWN AND INNOVATIVE,
TO CREATE SOMETHING INTRINSICALLY UNIQUE.
/(“$ THE PROCESS OF PICKING AND DECIDING, DISCARDING AND RE-DISCOVERING IS
A STEP TOWARDS SELF-LIBERATION.
&%$ STIMULATE FUTURE-ORIENTATED THINKING THROUGH MIND-CHANGING INPUT
¿^¨ BE CONSCIOUS THAT SIGNIFICATIONS CHANGE AS SOON AS ITEMS, PEOPLE AND
CUSTOMS WANDER FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER.
•=! IT´S WISE TO BE AWARE.
*/( TV IS NOT REALITY.
$%& YOUR HEADSPACE IS YOURS -- RECLAIM YOUR BRAIN!
?¿?¿ CULTURAL CHANGE THROUGH CULTURAL RECYCLING.
In Buenos Aires alone, thousands of people (called "cartoneros" - people who recollect recyclable materials like paper, PET and glass) live off the little money they make recycling
the garbage of the more fortunate. Visitors and locals equally feel turmoiled by the images
of children, men and women milling through the rubbish bags left outside for daily recollection, leaving behind strain packages and other recesses when finally done with their
grimy, below-dignity work. The dark, shriveled-up men on the brink of heat exhaustion
trotting in front of self-constructed carriages in the middle of traffic-polluted avenidas, their
women and children huddled behind huge mountains of garbage ready to be dissembled,
reinforce the image of a pauper reality the wealthy of the city desperately try to object to.
Maybe it's because of the fear of the looming social descend that rich people treat the
less fortunate so bad? Maybe the rubbish recycling simply stains their image of an almost
So... The cartoneros are looked down and frowned upon at best which is weird, especially
considering they are doing the city a favor recycling. Their contribution to a "wannabe"
society in which aspiring to be "First World" (whatever that means) is most desirable
is of uttermost importance -- in a very paradoxical way: they are actually the only ones
recycling, the others haven’t caught on at all yet! In any aspiring consumerist country, the
‘American Dream’ is still the perfect example of an ideal world. "Shop until you drop": this
motto is something only few and select people can actually live up to! Most people would
love to be in that situation -- to be able to consume more than they actually need! The
super maximum, it's the apex of human society!
Maybe it’s a psychological phenomenon: until the level of excess is reached, recycling (as
in re-use of resources) is seen as a necessity of the poor. To "have more" is something
desired by an entire society until the level of excess is reached and even the poorest have
enough to overspend -- even if this only means "splashing out on" the cheapest alcohol
you can get your hands on and get absolute wasted to forget your sorrows! It shows
you can "afford" it!
The reasons why it´s so interesting to use leftovers as resources are not a pure necessity or a need born out of despair and the desire to survive… it’s that tapping into
the streams of objects that other people discharge, giving them a new lease of life, can
make you very happy. Used objects are more interesting than new ones, as they seem
to tell a story. Buying or owning new things is a short-cut to avoid getting inventive...
Wanting new objects but not being able to have them right away makes you think and
rethink why you want them, how you want them, and if and how you can make them
Falling back onto recycling resources because it free from the commercial necessity to
recover costs when you experiment. In this sense, a trash collecting necessity can be
pure luxury… You can sense romanticism in having to be inventive and having to come
up with solutions. Sometimes, I know what I am looking for, and I walk the streets
patiently till the day I find what I want, and then I can complete the piece I am thinking
of. Finding the right thing at the right time is almost impossible, making it an exiting
search. This is why the keyboard took two years; I had to find the piano keys first.
Sometimes, I find something I like, and later I will find a purpose for it. I found a chair
which I liked so much, but when I sat on it, its broken seat would literally bite my ass,
which is why I painted teeth on it and stuck a tongue in between. Visitors are being
warned that way: It’s not your normal chair (and for TRASH NOLOGY, this fancy
object has been recycled again and is a fluo chair.)
To see the beauty in things, and to design, and to create alternative spaces and places
where a nurturance of consciousness is desired is something people can, will and
need to delve into when their basic needs are met. Someone dying of hunger has no
means to care about these "superficialities"... but once you aren’t starving, and can
invent, and reinvent, and question, then all these aspects that arise from recycling
actually make you think: There are so many mighty inventions born out of trash, like
the wind-up TV/radio.... their use has never really caught on although the impact
could be huge... it you can make wind-up machines to make them work, why don't
we do it? Just ask yourself: Why do the thread mills in fitness studios do not feed the
power supply of the studio itself to start with? Why can't we generate the energy we
use up, ourselves? Especially as the well-off countries on this planet struggle with
its overweight populations' illnesses. Why don't we take it all further? Is this way of
thinking too "hippie"? Too freaky? Too apocalyptic? Too futuristic? Too subversive?
Why do we believe we can make an impact separating yogurt cans from milk boxes?
Does "recycling" mean wear environmentally friendly socks from alpaca sheep wool?
Is this taking it far enough, especially considering it is the so-called First World which
has to pull the plug on energy consumption, consumerism, excess spending and debt
TRASH NOLOGY is about “To see the beauty in things, and to design, and
to create alternative spaces and places where a nurturance of consciousness
is desired is something people can, will and need to delve into when their basic
needs are met”. What are those alternative spaces - alternative to what? Does
your art take place in these alternative spaces? If so, what do they look like?
It refers to the luxury of art. Only someone who is not struggling to survive on a daily
basis and has enough to eat and a roof top can start to look at his surroundings and
take care about it, maybe by putting flowers on the window sill or painting the walls
in pleasant colors. This desire to shape and nourish the surrounding world by giving
it love and attention is something that distinguishes one individual from another.
Some people live in a habitat which is a nightmare that reflects fear, mental slavery,
suppression, and depression. Some other people live in habitats they freely create,
bringing into existence an environment that reflects love, liberation, playfulness, experimentation, exploration, liberty. I feel not all people are naturally drawn to the light, to
follow this open approach, to shape and love and create. Those who dream and change are not necessarily the minority, but I would call them alternative because they are
not the majority either, they accumulate in places where they manifest themselves
freely, but not everywhere they are welcome and not all their pursuits are understood.
OnceLibre (the project called into life by Judith Villamayor and her ArtiCultores, where
Trash Infinity Suite and the Keyboard were on show) is a good example, it was third
floor of a grey, run down building, and its lavish roof top garden overlooked a crowded, sometimes outright dangerous place, Plaza Miserere (even the name is grimy).
Dreaming and wanting to change a polluted and ugly place into something beautiful
isn’t necessarily what all the people automatically enjoy and embrace. It’s almost as if
they need the right habitat for their characters which aren’t at all dreamy. Well it does
not come as a surprise that some not so nice people seized their opportunity and took
over the space by brute force. Yes, the ugly can be ugly.
Nevertheless... It always is and was a small and outlandish artist caste of architects, thinkers, designers, who actually live another reality, the dreamt-up reality of
an alternative! They bike, they print on recycled paper, they vote for environmental
changes and alternative energies; with their calls for change, they have had an impact
on society as we know it in the last years. And they promote different ways of thinking
all around the world. And hopefully, they will have an even bigger impact in the future
when resources will become even more sparse. By promoting an alternative way of
thinking and acting, a lot of changes could be acted out by us, the “consumers”, and
as part of a democratic society, we can act out our discontent and disapproval with
politics. Something which in many countries of the world does not happen in a peaceful way yet. Yet. It's bound to happen, and it's necessary to happen, but not, because
a saturating level of excess is reached, but because the people in power understand
the necessity of change looking at the reality of those in need. In Argentina, slavery,
child work, occupation and murder, born out of hunger and despair, are part of the
daily protocol. And this is not going to change as the gap between rich and poor increases. So it’s important to raise awareness. To get the rich and powerful to help and
change before it’s too late. But not in aggressive ways. With love.
The Story Behind ‘Trashmission’
To create awareness and to change things on an individual level is the higher goal of
many Buenos Aires-based artists, thinkers, and activists. After being exposed to the
futuristic panoramas of Mad Max, two Trash core members, Javier Gover, editor of
Wicked Magazine, an alternative lifestyle and culture magazine, and Daniela Luna,
owner of the prestigiously trashy art gallery Appetite (now relocated to Beijing and
revamped as POPULARITY), decided to call into life an event called Trashmission.
They imagined a party that would not only cater for those in need for a good party, but
also stimulate future-orientated thinking through the mind-changing input the revelers
would get while dancing and discovering the art on show. They then asked me to team
up with them as I was the creative director of the magazine at that time, and with my
background as a DJ and writer, I instantly knew that the two creative heads planned
to initiate. The idea was to go further, to unite people from all different walks of life
-- artists here are somewhat aloof, often from wealthy families, and we tried to show
good worker's ethics and gather all the different groups of people to show an alternative to the otherwise somewhat stale and self-referential night life. This was in 2009.
We'd spend a good amount of time dreaming up the deeper concept which turned
into some kind of post-apocalyptic film script (the story can actually be read on www.
trashmission.net). We'd create a post-atomic world scenario in which the surviving
people would gather in tribes and live an alternative to the one offered by mainstream
media. It actually turned into something more: we actually created a situation in which
this apocalyptic scenario media would paint was already actual reality -- in 2009, more
wars were waged than ever before, and we felt that the media would generate the
wrong reaction in people -- instead of becoming more proactive, people would literally
shut down. Hence we throughly agreed on the fact that "TV is not reality" -- we were
reality: We felt that media did not reflect the real situation in a way that would stimulate
a change but only create more despair and discontent, and that we did not want to be
part of this so-called reality but create our alternative through cultural recycling. Our
reality was Trashmission.
Divided in six chapters that would somehow simulate the cycle of human development
in a more evangelical way, the idea from the very beginning was to fuse all the vital
ingredients of an alternative culture scene: fashion, innovation, art, music. Freedom of
expression, sexual liberation. Cultural change through cultural recycling... We'd use a
referential character called Dr Zeitgeist, a strange cyber mutant partly responsible for
the mental activation of the party goers. Dressed in a micro-circuit clad suit and donned
with a computer screen on his head, he'd scan dancers to check up on their activities.
Recycling of materials others discard -- old computer terminals, TVs, telephones -- was
part of the protocol. We'd not only decorate the places we found to hold parties (always
factories and disused storage rooms, never clubs as we found that managing our
door and bar was essential to get across the message -- we did not want to work with
bouncers, and the suppressive normality of the door politics and security regime of the
"normal" club landscape), we'd also create artifacts that were part of the story, like a
huge transmission tower with blinking lights on the top...
Our idea of recycling is neither born out of necessity (yet -- although we summon up a
reality in which it's the only way of survival) nor out of fashion although we embrace the
need to create our own individual style, reality, look.
We give artifacts a new life and destination by finding new use for them, reinventing their realities. Our houses are full of these artifacts, and we pride ourselves with
self-designed outfits made of card board and paper (Tranqui Yanki) or reused clothes
(Bruno Chavez Couture) or we even use photographic imagery of the deprived to get
our message across (Lupas Ropas).
Our message is ‘trashcending the limits’ of the different scenes and social circles, we
had people from all countries and walks of life attending our events. Artists and artist
groups joined the ritual, with their help we could realize six totally differently-themed
parties -- topics ranged from War to Redemption -- as well as VJs, DJs, bands, and
fashion designers... united by the fact that they would all be part of a cultural recycling
process, meaning they would utilize whichever tool or means, new and old, known and
innovative, to create something intrinsically unique. Music-wise, we'd try to live up to
the spirit of the good old sound system in the van of Spiral Tribe, something virtually
unheard of over here, use new and old machinery, and get bands and DJs to play
whose music and attitude would exceed the limits of this very life-sucking cool hipness that makes every oh-so-fashionable a rather boring ego celebration, if anything.
TRASH 's not Vice-ious. It's real.
The last Trashmission was held at the end of 2009... since then, we have seen the birth
of Trash Bar, Trash Republique and various other side projects. Designers, artists and
musicians are all continuing their path in artistic search and growth. But it is true that
the Buenos Aires scene has not seen an event or occurrence ever since that unites
and mobilizes in the way Trashmission did.
The definite definition of TRASH is still something we pride ourselves with:
"TRASH is not rubbish; trash is showing yourself as an individual how you really
are, without fears of not being accepted". We are sure this movement will grow as we
are facing our own recycling, our own reutilization as we are gobbled up by the huge
waste heaps of cultural excess, but we will be recycled again and called upon, and call
out to all the tribes again! Right now, we are having children. The first new generation
of post Trashmission mutants, generation reformation :)!real than anything you see on
television. And we should never forget that our senses are subjective; they only pick up
on what they want to pick up on. So why not take it for what it is, face value. And make
your life your individual experience, no one can recycle this… and I think it was Walter
Benjamin who started off the “copy of a copy” discussion in modern times, that there
cannot be any novelties cause it’s all been done before etc. So, let’s relax and accept
it: all this rage about “new, new, new” is just another headfuck? We as babies start
discovering everything on an individual scale, there is no linearity attached to individual
discovery. You can start listening to Mozart, whose opus you never checked out really,
today, thinking it’s the most innovative music ever! Someone might come and tell you
otherwise, but who cares?
Recycling refers to personal discovery, and recovery of human data! Just enjoy whatever you dig out of humanity’s chest of wisdom.
How can TRASH help you to show yourself as who you really are? What
culture are you referring to as excess? Can there be too much culture, if so who
is to decide which is bad?
The process of picking and deciding, discarding and re-discovering is a step towards
self-liberation. A lot of stuff – values, styles, habits etc – have been brought upon us
without our conscious decision. The line between being inspired and “things are done
that way” can be so fine that it’s impossible to notice. Leave alone the conscious and
subconscious adaptation which ensures survival in our respective carved or not carved
niches. The human is an animal after all. So TRASHing around is actually looking
at all the heaps of information that is being thrown at us, surrounding us, consciously
chosen or not, and choosing what really goes down with oneself. There is nothing
wrong about it at all to stand up and say no, or yes, to whatever, especially, when it comes from the heart. Heart-felt decisions about anything in life are wonderful, they feel
right, glorious, and let us overcome any kind of suffering. So stand up and show your
trash with pride. There can never be too much culture, just too much unawareness of
when to say YES to life and happiness in general. The more you feel conscious and in
charge of your own self-chosen destiny, the happier you get. At this stage, there is no
good and bad. Just experience.
Using TRASH as material can be a way to communicate that you’re outside
the art world. How do you see TRASH in relation to the classical art world?
Are you interested in being a part of it, do you have something to tell it?
The classic art world, like all established worlds, is a place in which mechanisms have
been enacted and rules applied. These rules are like any kind of rules, they can be
followed or broken, both of which can be fun. Morphing in and out of any kind of world
is a nice form of interconnecting and staying individual and independent at the same
time… it’s a nice way of following my heart. I feel naturally drawn to people, places and
situations, and do not care what their “label name” says about them. If I like the box,
I will stick around in it for as long as it’s interesting. And of course I have things to tell
to those who want to listen. And I also want to listen. I guess this curiosity was synonymous to Trash, there were quite a few of us understanding the dance of the cosmos,
some were interested more, some less in the spirituality of these thoughts. The basic
idea was and is self-activation. Wherever, however. And to share the experience with
The core of and mission of TRASH is: the call for people to find their own expression, to not create themselves through consuming stuff but to look around and take
advantage of all that is already there, materially as well as intellectually. To encourage
the joy and lust that can be found in revaluing stuff that in our culture normally gets rejected, to see the beauty in it. To look at your environment in another way basically. To
not only buy the ready made but to realize that it is we all who constantly make culture.
With creativity as the primary aim, living your own reality is the goal.
And, on your view there is a longing in people, if so unaware, to join and create?
To not only consume culture but to be a part of it and contribute? And it is the
commercials, aka our more and more commercialized society, that force people
longer and longer away from participating and their own creativity?
Yes, I totally believe that this is true... In an article about “Guerilla Gardening” in the
Articultores mag we made at OnceLibre (an art ptoject which ceased to exist but keeps
living on at POPULARITY), the author Federico Schwindt dealt with the question of
how he became involved, and his feelings of happiness when making plants grow.
Basically, he said that he, just like most people who are city dwellers, never even
thought about what plants are, he just consumed them like products, and when being
back in touch with this, he felt... life, and that he was alive... and it’s so true. Hardly
anyone nowadays actually grows a plant until it’s ripe to eat, just like we do not make
our own clothes anymore or kill our own steaks... it’s not only that we have become too
lazy -- it’s that it’s virtually impossible as things have become far too complex... So we
just have to rely on things being readily delivered to us. Maybe we even deny our own
genes: weren’t we hunters and gatherers for millions of years? Does this genetic trait
show when we go “bargain hunting” and grow “art collections”??? I guess there might
be something to it we should look into, a lot of people lead spiritually not very rewarding
existences with material stuff replacing other experiences... a lot of people I know have
never found access to their creative sides and lead very unhappy unfulfilled lives, also
because they just don’t know what it is that makes them unhappy... I feel like I almost
fell into that trap but ‘escaped’ into a rawer existence with less security back up. But the
joy of being in control, and the suffering generated by my struggle also, make me feel
As you say "the basic idea was and is self-activation". Do you have any other
examples of artists and culture-makers except for
that live after this ideology?
TRASH and Once Libre
I guess there are gazillions of self-activated individuals all choosing their own paths on
a daily basis, surely not easy but also very rewarding in so many ways.... and I hope a
lot of people reading this will feel the truth behind these words I am trying to squeeze
out of my brain in funny English!
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