Environmentalist street art brings awareness to single-use plastics crisis

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Staging street art for the environment

This is the second year that Jen Fedrizzi and I have staged a performance on “Black Friday,” (the day after Thanksgiving), a notoriously consumerist holiday in the U.S. This date seemed really fitting for a performance piece that’s all about our reliance on single-use items, such as plastics.

This five-hour performance art was part of the Almost Public/Semi-Exposed series at Artists’ Television Access in San Francisco in their street front window. It’s a great spot because there’s tons of foot traffic on Valencia St. in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. Hundreds of people saw our performance in passing, and many stopped to witness for a longer duration.

Why we’re doing this

One role of the artist is to be aware of current events, and respond to these issues. For Jen and I, we’ve noticed plastic pollution increasing over the course of our own lives. We’ve witnessed the convenience and the pitfalls of our culture’s reliance on single-use items.

For me, on a recent visit to Honolulu, I spent much of my vacation collecting plastic out of the ocean. It seems that there really isn’t anywhere on the earth that is untouched anymore. There’s even an entire island of trash floating in the Pacific that is larger than Texas. This trajectory feels unsafe and rather illogical to me. So, I wanted to do something.

As an artist, I respond with art. I believe that art touches people in a different way than a protest, or informational brochure.

The performance art I create is abstract, so it’s up to the audience to determine their own takeaways for themselves.

For me, going deep into an emotional space and allowing others to view me in that space is very vulnerable. I believe that sharing vulnerability is powerful.

making costumes from trash

We wanted to evoke emotions for viewers through visuals, movement, and music. For the visuals, we created custom trash costumes as a way to “carry” our own trash on our bodies. We imagined our characters as “the spirit of nature,” which guided our movements throughout the performance.

We called the art piece, “What Remains,” which is meant to provoke thought on what actually remains on the earth after we die.

We especially wanted to explore the lack of awareness people have in regards to the waste they create, and try to challenge that in our performance.

You’ll see lots of people walking by holding their to-go coffee cups, and I think that’s quite fitting, and also pretty ironic.

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Creating music about plastic pollution

I created 25 minutes of original electronic music, which we looped over the course of the 5-hour performance. This was really helpful for us to have a soundtrack for dance, and I think the lyrics made the purpose of our performance clearer for the audience.

All of these songs feature improvised lyrics. For the songs, I created backing tracks and then just flowed on top of it. I didn’t plan or write down any lyrics. I really wanted to be in a flow state and allow my emotions to guide this work.

What Remains?

What Remains,” the title track of our performance, asks the question, “What remains when we leave this place?” and for me personally, this was a very confronting question. I’m not perfect in regards to recycling, or plastic consumption, so this song was me confronting myself with the truth of my own legacy on this planet.

Little pieces of plastic

Little pieces of plastic,” is a song all about micro-plastics. Scientists recently found micro-plastics in the human bloodstream, which was the inspiration for the song.

Billions

Another song, “Billions” repetitively chants, “Billions of people, billions of dollars, billions of bottles on this planet.” I find that repetition is a really powerful tool, and it leaves the message really open-ended for the listener to interpret on their own. I’m not telling them what to think—-I’m offering a perspective that they can think about further.

Where is away?

Away,” is quite the ear worm. My hope was that listeners wouldn’t quite be able to shake it. I hope that every time someone goes to throw something in the bin, they recall the lyrics:

Where is away?

Is away in the garbage can?

Where is away?

Is away in the landfill?

Where is away?

Is away when you close your eyes?

Where is away?

Is away a place in your mind?

Future performances

We plan to build on this performance, and do more iterations in different locations.

If you’d like us to come to your school, organization, or function, please reach out. We’d love to hear from you.