For the latest installment of our periodic Tuesday (and sometimes Thursday) series of trash talks, I caught up with artist, activist and garblogger Cynthia Korzekwa of Art for Housewives—one of the first sites to blogroll everydaytrash back in the day. And a constant source of inspiration since.
everydaytrash: What is bricolage?
Cynthia Korzekwa: Bricolage is taking something old and, via context, making it new. It comes from the French verb bricoler meaning “fiddle, tinker.” A person who engages in bricolage is a bricoleur. And a bricoleur has the capacity to take available materials and, using hands and imagination, give them a new identity.
The French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss used the word bricolage to explain a means of acquiring knowledge and, in particular, mythical thought. Because mythology dabbles with existing knowledge to create new meaning.
However, my interest for the term came from reading the biologist, François Jacob, and his idea that evolution is a tinkerer. Because, to evolve, nature adapts what already exists.
And it is the spirit of the bricoleur that we must have in order to transform our trash into a resource. Why make things using virgin materials when there is so much that we throw away that we can use instead. The mind of the bricoleur is not standardized. Not producing in mass, he does not use have an assembly-line approach to creating. He creates what he needs with what he has.
Bricolage makes the useless useful. In terms of trash, a bricoleur can transform vice into virtue.
Korzekwa: I don’t know how many websites I have. When I first became interested in internet and websites, I signed up for all the freebie spaces available and began experimenting. Being a technological illiterate, I signed up for A Quicky Course on how to make websites and just started making them. Very primitive stuff (and basically, they still are). But the only way to evolve is to experiment. And that’s what I did. Now, of course, I have a different rapport with internet. And the yin yang of content and form has shifted its weight. Content interests me more thus I no longer feel the need to make more websites. Unless, of course, there’s not a particular need as was the case with MAKE ART, NOT TRASH.
everydaytrash: What motivated you to start Art for Housewives the blog?
Korzekwa: Several years ago, I read “1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” and literally felt sick to my stomach after reading it. Some 1,700 of the world’s leading scientists, including the majority of Nobel laureates in the sciences, felt the need to get together to declare their concern for our future. Their statement begins with:
Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.
Very spooky stuff. My immediate concern was for Sergio and Chiara, my children. I felt the need to react. And that’s how my blog, Art For Housewives, began. And the time, I already had a blog, Obliterated, that focused on the idea that making things with your hands was a form of active meditation. So basically, I kept that idea but added a new element—that of making things from trash. My blog, Art For Housewives, is almost 6 years old now. In the beginning it was quite difficult to find on-line examples of recycling to make objects that were not only useful but beautiful as well. The only women whom seemed interested in the use of trash to make something were those of Third World countries. Women who had no money to buy “art supplies.”
My blog had immediate success–6 to 10,000 visits per month. But what helped me a lot, visit wise, was that a kind of Neo-Domesticity began to flourish after September 11th. Women began giving value to the home and thus to crafts which had been abandoned in favour of “emancipation.” And so they began knitting like crazy and starting blogs to exchange patterns and info. Martha Stewart also animated alot of female souls. With her, it became trendy to care about your home. Related blogs began cropping up all the time. Now there are so many women out there making things and blogging about it. They are making art that is so much more exciting than that alienating conceptual stuff mainstream art caters to.
everydaytrash: I heard you are working on Art for Housewives, an illustrated essay in the style of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis. How’s the project going?
Korzekwa: After a couple of years blogging Housewives, I decided to publish an illustrated essay based on the information I had collected, ARTE PER MASSAIE (“art for housewives” in Italian). The text and artwork was no problem but, living in Italy, I had to write in Italian. Never having studied it, my Italian is a bit folkloristic. Luckily, there’s a decent English translation at the end of the book.
everydattrash: How did MAKE ART, NOT TRASH come about?
Korzekwa: Last year, I decided to try a bit of activism and this led to MAKE ART, NOT TRASH, a site with links to some of my favourite examples of how to transform trash. You know, bricolage. Then I printed 300 stickers and put them on the dumpsters in the area of my studio, San Lorenzo (Rome). The stickers had a drawing of a bunny encouraging people to think before throwing something away.
Critical mass is fundamental for change. Take Kerala, India, for example. Being a very poor state with a high birthrate, the local government tried convincing women to practice contrapception and men to be sterilized but with little success. Then a major emphasis was placed on education and everyone sent to school. As a result, today the citizens of Kerala are 100% literate, an anomaly in India. As a result, the birth rate has drastically dropped. Once you are educated, no one needs to convince you what is the right thing to do because you know on your own.
Awareness helps one make the right choices.
(Photos via Korzekwa’s many Web sites)