Gertrude Berg, pick-up artist


Austrian-born, Boston-trained trash artist Gertrude Berg made this video of a woman picking up trash with high heels on the streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn as a comment on the hypocrisy of gentrification: outsiders descend on an industrial neighborhood, gut and polish the insides of buildings while the streets remain as trash-strewn as ever.

“Pick-Up Artist” was carried out in 2007 as part of Conflux, an annual New York festival designed to examine city living in artistic ways. For Conflux 2006, Berg made a many-pocketed dress out of Tyvek, which she wore everywhere during the festival and used to store all the trash she created during that time.

Photo via artist's Flickr stream

Photo via artist's Flickr stream

This project reminds me of a similar venture my friend Myra designed in college called “Trash Bellies”. She has been promising since the beginning of this blog to dig up photos of that work. Myra, are you reading this? Send me pictures!

Note: Conflux 2009 will be held this September. And it’s not too late for artists to get involved. Sumbissions are due Agusut 15. I wonder what urban and trashy wonders the next event will hold!

This post was made possible by a tip from a supercool attendee of the NYC Repro Health Happy Hour. Thanks, tipster!

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9 Responses to “Gertrude Berg, pick-up artist”

  1. Elizabeth Westley Says:

    Trash is the hottest topic on our neighborhood listserv. In gentrifying neighborhoods – like Bushwick, where this piece was filmed – litter – trash on the street – starts getting a lot of attention and can become kind of a class issue. At least I see a public trash can in the video – our commercial drag, Newkirk Avenue, is deemed “non-commercial” by the city and doesn’t rate any public trash cans at all.

  2. Leila Darabi Says:

    The absence of trash cans is the first thing I notice when I leave the city. It makes such a difference.

    Let me know if the neighborhood listserv produces any juicy trash tidbits. What do locals propose to curtail litter out your way?

  3. Elizabeth Westley Says:

    After much kvetching (ie NYC activism) we got ONE trash can that quickly overflowed because it was on a “residential” pick up schedule – one can in 8 commercial blocks, and only picked up once or twice a week. The owner of the corner store by the trash can complained so much about the overflow that it was taken away. So we learned that we need to have daily pick-up and multiple cans. We got Marty Markowitz to write a letter to the Department of Sanitation but nothing yet.

    At community meetings the trash debate often devolves into nonsense about “those people who litter” – but as one of our board members pointed out, the amusement park industry has done extensive research on how far a person will carry a piece of litter looking for a receptacle to put it in before tossing it. It ain’t very far, no matter what your race or class.

  4. Myra Says:

    Just reading this now! I promise I will send you pictures of the trash bellies soon! 🙂

  5. Ruby Re-Usable Says:

    Gertrude Berg is my new trashionista idol, that waste carrier dress is trashtastic, thank you everyday trash for sharing such fresh garbage!

  6. Leila Darabi Says:

    Glad you like it, I could totally see you rocking that outfit 😉

  7. Leila Darabi Says:

    Keep us posted, Elizabeth. I’m curious to know how effective a letter from a borough president can be. Your situation raises such interesting issues about rezoning commercial areas, race and class.

  8. Ruby Re-Usable Says:

    the more I think about Gertrude Berg’s waste carrier dress, the more I think it should be made out of a clear material, so that folks can SEE all the trash that she is wearing (but then it would have to be made out of plastic … hard to find recycled clear plastic … oh the conundrums of being environmentally correct!)

  9. DumpsterVoid « everydaytrash Says:

    […] By Leila Darabi Attention trashies! Gertrude Berg, whom you may remember as the Pick Up Artist, has just completed a gorgeous and clever new project called DumpsterVoid. The idea is this: take […]

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