On Thursday, local artist, Cindy Gusler provided our class with a few simple tools: “repurposed” coffee grounds, a paint brush and an the idea that everything that goes into a product can, in some way, be used in another product, in this case the product is art.
Cindy Gusler has been called an ecological artist and says that part of being an ecological artist is to “educate and transform the ordinary… to find and repurpose.” Cindy found and repurposed Dasani water bottles and shards of broken windshield to make a conglomerate geode that that sparkles like, well…a sparkly geode. She suggests that by “intervening into systems that are broken” they can be “repaired with art.”
The oscar nominated documentary film Waste Land, follows two artists who had the idea to transform waste from the worlds largest landfill into art, one piece at a time. And in the process, a community of people transformed their own lives one person at a time.
As I watched this film a few questions began to come up for me. (spoiler alert)
At first I questioned his intention and motivation for the project. For example, is this project “art with a capital A”? Will this project exploit the pickers or offer an opportunity for transformation? At the beginning of the film they entered the garbage dump with their cameras ready, questions loaded, drawing a ton of attention, and just started to film… I felt myself holding my breath and shifting in my chair because I was uncomfortable with the direction this appeared to be moving. As the film went on I felt a shift in the motivations of the project, the artist began forming relationships with his “characters,” by listening to their stories and “his characters” became people and no longer only a “project.” In this process the characters became, as Boal describes, “actors in their own life,” and “makers of their own history.” One picker said, “99 is not 100,” referring to each piece of trash he collects and recycles, reduces the mountain of trash upon which he has worked everyday of his life. That image influenced the way in which I think about making change. One piece or peace at a time.
Art creates questions. Questions create dialogue. Dialogue creates….