By Jana Astanov
Juno Diary June 1
We decide to go to Go Green Brooklyn festival which is nearby McCarren Park, and as it happens, is organised by my friend, singer and an actress, Abbey Rose Garner. Abbey would probably prefer to dance on Broadway, but in the meantime she has taken a side job working towards a more sustainable city, presenting a wonderful civic opportunity and fodder for her future star turn. Mark your calendar, for one day soon, she will sing and throw her legs high up in a Broadway musical about solar panels, veganism and free eco-education for all. For now, she has joined the Go Green Brooklyn which in its 12th year of existence, presenting a platform for local sustainability initiatives, with participants ranging from NYC Department of Environmental Protection, to The Economist, various local educational organisations, as well as local healers and psychics. The festival gives a knowing wink to the influx of white affluent families that took over the Williamsburg and Greenpoint circa 2005 AC, pushing local artists further into Brooklyn and Queens in the urban saga of gentrification.
Niko has lived in the area since the late 90s, and I got to know it better in 2014 when the Flavorpill office I worked for as an UX designer moved here for a couple of months. Then in 2015 I started performing at the Point B gallery on N9th run by Marc Parrish, who has hosted countless artists since the 90’s. Point B was a magical space and like all unicorns, one day it disappeared and in its place sprouted condos for the wealthy… Marc made a great documentary about the gallery and the area that shows you Williamsburg back in the time when the whole neighborhood looked like an abandoned warehouse:
While Nikolas stops by pretty much every stand inquiring about communal solar energy, I check out the arts section and the stream of thoughts runs through my head…
Don’t we all dream of living in eco-cities with luscious green terraces where the bees pollinate the flowers, and red plump tomatoes fall into the mouth straight from the bushes? Those terraces certainly exist in New York City, we actually have a rooftop where our neighbors started a vegetable garden but… Our block, with some of the wealthiest global companies, does not have any recycling program… Our landlord, a Wall Street Hedge fund cannot be bothered, and Apple, yes the iPhone Apple, don’t care. Here is the reality of the corporate responsibility that drives the property prices up and turns Williamsburg into a sought after location. It’s pretty as long as someone picks up the mountains of trash coming from the wealthy. We actually do recycle – we throw our recycled garbage on the neighbouring block once it gets dark… For the last 3 years we were caught only once and asked to take it back, otherwise sneaking our piles of discarded possessions into another block’s recycling system has been working fine. I still keep on wondering where the recycled tri ˆøoash ends its journey and whether it actually gets recycled…
And as those thoughts run through my head we meet a friend Maira Duarte dressed in her trash outings costume. She is in performance art mode, the dress she wears is covered in pieces of found plastic: cups, bags, plates, bottles, the everyday object of XXI century we all use and think little of. Maira is a walking living sculpture, a statement, a wake-up call, a cry for help. She draws everyone’s attention walking down the streets in her trash dress she designed together with Nicole Touzien. People stare at her as we wait at the bus stop, an unusual assembly of a baby, myself and Trash Princess, as I call her sometimes.
Maira’s work is focused on movement research through which she raises the awareness of the environmental crisis. Driven by her collective of dancers, Dance To The People Project, she organises regular trash outings: clearing various areas of trash as a conscious body movement practice. In her opinion, we all have the information of the trash crisis but there is not enough action, therefore, to fully acknowledge the issue we need a body based experiences which can result in deeply felt knowledge. Direct action focused on the here and now are the basis of the movement research which calls on collective awakening, and acknowledgment of the human impact on the environment.
Once Niko leaves to take care of his lighting design project, we decide to head to my friend’s Green New Pop Up deep in Long Island City. For many years Amber Lasiak has been running a company REDU, where she reuses discarded furniture working with various designers and artists (textile, metal, woodwork). Her clients include trendy Manhattan bars and nightclubs, and her designs create eclectic and stylish environments, featuring artworks made from recycled materials. Earlier today she invited me to come over to her temporary space for Eco Nomad Fashion Show. My attitude towards fashion is complex, having grown up in a communist country where we had truly next to nothing. With proverbial one pair of shoes a year, fashion wasn’t something of a daily concern, and the concept of trends came to me only when I went to school in France and was bullied by the French kids because I had no fashionable clothing. To survive meant to learn how to shop and fit in, literally. I couldn’t change my accent but I could change the way I dressed to be part of the consumerist promised land of the West. I thought Maria was the perfect person to invite to a fashion show – Trash Trend as the only fashion revolution the industry craves. As on cue, once we arrive everyone present starts snapping Maira’s photos connecting with her IG @dttp.nyc. We are early for the show, and I slightly worry that the music is too loud for Yanis but he seems to be doing fine, climbing on all the furniture on display designed and made by Amber’s REDU. I find myself having a few fashion conversations about this season’s colour palette, and soon the fashion show begins, featuring a group of completely normal looking people, with the first model on a wheelchair, followed by all body types, skin tones, genders, and a quite diverse age bracket. It feels refreshing, my eyes are more drawn to the models than the clothes they are wearing. Out of the whole show, I remember most a large flower print. Then there is a line that pops up in my head to the electro beat of the dj set – even monochrome New York City flowers need the bees.
We leave shortly after, as my baby is clearly exhausted by and from the day’s events. We head back to my flat for dinner, proceed to spend rest of the evening talking about our lives and work, the American culture and its proliferation to all parts of the world, and how different our upbringings were, compared to the way people live in the US…with the major difference being wasteful mindless consumerism. We talk about how we can influence a shift and create new narratives. I remember in Poland we had nothing to buy in the shops, so it feels like, looking back, my entire childhood was spent on fun activities, ranging from art, theatre, sports, learning Esperanto, coding, and also attending extra maths and chemistry classes for gifted kids. What our world doesn’t need now is more brand awareness and trendy trends, but instead, authentic embodied presence in harmony with the environment.