Transcribed from a conversation between Jen Saffron and Tanja Grass, in Tanja's voice:
The special thing about the Re:NEW Festival is the number of artists that have been able to travel to Pittsburgh from Spain, Argentina, Germany, and other parts of the U.S. - eleven in all. This enriching experience means these artists not only have their artwork shown in Drap-Art, they have been able to exchange with cultural people here in Pittsburgh – other artists, curators, writers. Touring places like Mattress Factory with curator and co-director Michael Olijnyk or having direct conversations with Catherine Evans, Chief Curator of the Carnegie Museum of Art, provide important learning and sharing moments.
And, some artists ave led and participated in educational programs here, like giving workshops and talks, and this has also been enriching for the young people in Pittsburgh as they have been able to create an artwork, talk with an international artist, learn about their life and work. Dolo Navas and Marcel-lí Antúnez Roca were visiting artists at Pittsburgh CAPA, working with high school grades. These artists and teachers shared an experience, together, learning about each other’s practices. By working with these international artists, students have been able to work in an unaccustomed way, like working with teacher Karen Page to showcase students' fashions for the Fashion Extravaganza this coming Friday night.
Marcel-lí and Tom Higgs, teacher at CAPA, made a large-scale sculpture out of discarded plastic bottles, and then the students who made the piece with Marcel-lí paraded it through the streets – fun, empowering and opening horizons for the young people here and for the artists, too, some of which have never been to the U.S. These experiences are eye opening for everyone.
Really, this whole educational part of Drap-Art is very important, because it’s the young people who are going to make the changes.
We’re living in a society in which to have apparent comfort, we are destroying the planet with disposable plastics, which are very practical because you can separate your food, get something to drink, but you can just as well use non-disposable items to handle this. Taking your cloth bag to shop instead of tons of plastic bags would make all the difference because right now, we are invading the planet with plastics, we are even eating microplastics when we eat fish. It’s very obvious that this can’t go on, much longer or we will all turn into plastics, ourselves – it’s already happening on the cellular level in humans.
Drap-Art is all about awareness raising in a fun way. Because either one doesn’t care about the environment, or one thinks it’s too late, it’s catastrophic. The plastic industry wants us to feel this way, to get discouraged and confused and feel we can’t do anything about it so that we’ll just keep buying and consuming. We as the consumers are the ones that have to make the difference because companies are going to make and sell what people buy.
This is what Stephanie Senge’s artwork is all about – she's here now, for the last part of the Re:NEW Festival to build a public mandala made out of consumer goods. She is saying: HEY, CONSUMER! Take consciousness about what it is that you are consuming!
Educating in a fun way encourages people. People come out of our exhibitions with a smile on their face AND an understanding that the plastics industry is a real problem. They can start to use less, use cloth bags. Think if you used one less plastic bag a day – that’s 365 less plastic bags a year. What if you did not buy a disposable coffee cup, but used a nice metal one with a handle? It’s better for you, better for the planet.
Already now, we’re working on our annual festival in Barcelona, which is from December 16 – December 31, smack in the middle of consumer Christmas. Stephanie Senge will also participate there, for which we’re planning a consumer demonstration with materials prepared in a workshop. Workshop participants will make placards with slogans like, “CONSUMER IDEALISM” and “CONSUMER ECSTASY” or “BE A STRONG CONSUMER, KNOW WHAT YOU WANT” and collaborate to create sculptures made from consumer goods – we will parade these sculptures/statues as if they were part of a religious procession.
Stephanie is thinking of recreating the Black Madonna with a very typical biscuit brand on her lap instead of the baby – they are called Maria cookies – to point out how consumerism is covering the need for religion - consuming not because we need to but because we are substituting needs – consumer goods for love, community, spiritualism.
And, that is what good art does; it points out things people do unconsciously, making us more aware of what we’re doing and perhaps why we are doing it. Hopefully, this will help us change and make life better for ourselves and the planet.
Pictured is the Drap-Art artists and team, left to right starting in the back row: Bill Miller (Pittsburgh), Gao Yansong (China/US), Maria Paz (Barcelona), Dolo Navas (Barcelona), Rubén Santurián (Uruguay/US), Imanol Ossa (Barcelona), Haydee Acero (Argentina), Karol Bergeret (Barcelona). Front row: Marcel-li Antunez Roca (Barcelona), Drap-Art founder and curator Tanja Grass (Barcelona).