Last Christmas I found myself wandering through one of Berlin’s many Christmas markets on a Wednesday evening. The market was practically empty and I was in a sombre mood. I had some money in my pocket and wanted to buy some gifts for the people I loved, but I was feeling uninspired by what I saw. ‘There is a lot of lovely stuff here’ I thought, ‘but it’s the same junk as every year’. I strolled through the whole market and purchased nothing but a simple ceramic bowl that caught my eye.
After strolling some more, I found myself standing in front of the market’s Christmas tree. The ‘tree’ was constructed of lots of metal pipes from which were strung various pieces of junk. Old tires, smashed up radios, ancient computers and broken bikes. It was strung with a nice strand of lights, only half of which were illuminated. In front of the tree was a big sign reminding us of how much waste we humans have produced and how we really should think carefully about what we purchase before doing so especially considering we are in the middle of a recession. ‘Well’ I thought, ‘Here we are being told NOT to buy things in the middle of a market in the middle of the Christmas season which is the most important time of year for retail business to make its biggest profits and turnover’. I heeded the sign and didn’t buy another thing at that market. I did end up buying small gifts for my family and friends last year, but I spent most of my money on good food instead.
A couple weeks later, I met an interesting young man from Melbourne, Australia named Sasha Margolis. Sasha, whose artist’s name is ‘Automating’ creates the most interesting sounds that really make me think deeply about our material world. While listening, I read his biography of his craft and it says: ‘Sifting through the sonic waste and discarded technology left by the roadside of a world speeding too fast into the future. Field recordings, found sound, tape manipulation, noise and effects units. Currently pursuing live and studio created binaural soundscapes and archaic tape based drones.’ When I read this I immediately thought of the Christmas tree again and all the junk that has been left by the roadside that people had nicely reused to decorate a tree and make a point at the same time. Sasha, as far as I can see, is reusing sonic waste and turning it into something useful: deeply inspiring sounds. As I mature, I start to really see the value of contemporary art forms, something I simply did not understand or see any worth in when I was younger. This past summer when I was at Documenta Contemporary Art show, I found myself standing in front of a big pile of scrap metal and junk that was one of the exhibits. One then asks: ‘Is this art?’ and ‘What is the value of this?’ The value of this of course, is to make us think about how much we waste and ponder more creative and artistic ways in which we can reuse, reduce and recycle and make our planet a more sustainable place for future generations.
I was recently killing time flipping through a high end women’s fashion magazine in a doctor’s waiting room. The magazine was full of advertisements for very expensive make-up, jewellry and clothing. The article that caught my eye however, was one that claimed that you do not have to be ashamed to say you are broke and unemployed in the middle of a recession. It showed you how you can creatively mix and match the clothes you already own without wasting money you don’t have on more junk you don’t need. This article impressed me as quite ironic sandwiched in between advertisements for expensive luxury products, just as the scrap and junk Christmas tree was placed in the middle of a market which is there for one reason: to make a profit.
Some mornings when I am getting dressed for work, I realise I am all nicely dressed up to greet a new client and then I swing around, look in the mirror and spot a lovely hole in my black tights. I don’t let it bother me though. I go to work anyway, and at least several better dressed people will point it out to me during the day, and I just blithely say ‘Oh really, I didn’t see that, never mind!’ If there is one thing a girl could go bankrupt on, it is constantly wasting money on new tights every time the tiniest hole appears in them. I do, of course, eventually splurge on more tights and throw the old ones to the junk heap, but not before I get the chance to wear the ones with lots of holes in them, two pairs at a time, under jeans, where no one knows the holes are there apart from me, in the depths of Berlin winter. This is just one way that I try and reuse and reduce waste. The other morning, Sasha sent me a link to his latest album and again it immediately made me think of waste reduction methods. Sasha’s sounds keep me thinking for hours about art, renewal, waste, death and the cycle of life. He samples so many different sounds from engines to sheep, to fireworks and birds. Sounds from from rural areas and from cityscapes. His sounds send me into a dream world and a trance and inspire me to write about all kinds of topics, which is interesting because his latest album ‘Somnambulist’ released under the label Wood & Wire deals partially with sleep states. Well done, Sasha!
Sasha’s music is available for purchase on Bandcamp.
By Rhea H. Boyden