M5 invited artist Adrian Kondratowicz to exhibit new work from his TRASH project. Adrian produced these unique pieces using plastic packaging waste from M5 Shop. The works are intended to highlight the problems of consumption and disposability within the fashion system.
Adrian sat down with us and spoke about the origins of this body or work, his process, personal style and sustainability in-practice. An edited transcript of this conversation follows below.
What made you start the TRASH PROJECT
Adrian Kondratowicz: Looking back at my practice I can say that it was an idea that resulted from personal life experience and an urge to share my work and my environmental values with my community. Being of service was another huge reason - I was blindsided by the red tape around public art in general, from funding to production. I wanted to make something that felt like a painting but wasn't. The idea was to subvert everyday trash bags into colorful objects with a mindful approach to the narrative they play in our lives. TRASH is an artwork that lives and functions in my community first before its anywhere else.
What is the trash FUND and its goals
The trash fund is a new initiative we are launching in Harlem. In the last 5 years we have successfully remediated St. Nicholas Park and we are now building out the maintenance phase of keeping the park clean and beautiful. We would love to share our efforts with other parts of Harlem and deploy a clean team to manage our waste more efficiently. For that purpose we are starting to offer regular trash bags for sale to businesses and residents in Harlem. Most of the money spent on trash bags in our community doesn't have any added benefit to it. If you purchase trash bags from the TRASH fund we will take that money and deploy a clean team to manage our waste just as other affluent neighborhoods do. The other added benefit is that the bags are made out of post consumer material. So it's a better product with an extra benefit to anyone who signs up for the project. The money stays in Harlem.
Were there any specific considerations you had for this work you're exhibiting at M5?
There is a lot of plastic film in the fashion industry. I wanted to use all your waste to make some of the works in the presentation. It was fun getting everyone involved in the process. I hope they got as much out of the experience as I did. It's how we spend our time, you know?
Can you tell us some specifics about your process in making these pieces?
The process is actually another life hack inspiration. I remember Helmut Lang did some plastic tarp and bubble wrap coats in one of his collections. I was blown away by it, it was so fresh. bomber jackets for men and dresses for women. I remember seeing them at the fittings and was totally fascinated by them. So I tried to make my own tee shirts but had some poor results on fabric until I realized how it works. The process uses heat to melt plastic onto a base material like wood panel or tarp. It was pioneered by a South African artist Mbongeni Buthelezi in the 90's.
What's your take on personal style? Has your work as an artist and advocate through the TRASH project influenced your choices in clothing?
Seeing how fashion markets itself and the clothing industry work has informed my buying habits for the better, I like to dress with purpose and utility. It depends on how I feel too, sometimes I just want to wear something funky. I prefer organic and plant based textiles. Quality is important. Some brands do a better job with their supply chains than others and some are really trying to make fashion a circular business model. We have so many choices now to be more sustainable.
In regards to sustainability, what easy steps can the normal consumer take to clean up their carbon footprint?
Avoid fast fashion. When we consume we have to be mindful of what and why. It really depends on your lifestyle but understanding why and what you consume is important to make conscious choices that are grounded in your wellbeing and health rather than a fetish. When you already have the things you really need and you keep on getting more stuff, then you step into overconsumption, and then you’re adding to the problem. However, I think with new technology and a more custom approach to garments and textiles we will be able to bridge the gap between our desires and what's possible without too much waste.