When you walk by a pile of trash bags on a sidewalk in New York City usually one of two feelings are triggered: You either feel disgusted about how dirty the city is or you don’t feel anything because you are so used to trash being a part of your daily landscape. For Costa Rican artist Ariela Kader, 23, these bags sparked a completely different feeling.
“When I moved to New York in 2009 trash really caught my attention and I couldn’t figure out exactly why.” She says. “Growing up in San Jose, Costa Rica the only time I would ever see trash was when I would go into the kitchen to throw away a candy wrapper or something.”
So she started documenting groups of trash bags on her iphone without really knowing what she was going to do with it. When her phone started running out of space she decided to go to CVS and print them out in 4 by 6 with a white border. She then decided to put them on a wall on her bedroom and wouldn’t remove them until she figured out what fascinated her so much about this subject.
One day she was looking at her reflection in the mirror and saw a picture of two trash bags in Lincoln Center that caught her attention and thought: “Oh this looks like a couple kissing”. Then she saw a composition of five bags where two trash bags were bigger than the other ones and she thought to herself “This looks like a family.”
She started seeing moments from every day life in these trash bags, which was something completely new to her. In the past she had always done art targeted towards American consumerism, but this was more of an introspective project. This time she started seeing moments of her own life or of her friend’s lives in these trash bags.
She then decided to use these images for a sculpture class she was taking at Parson’s where she obtained her degree in Fine Art.
“When I first took these pictures to my sculpture class my teacher’s reaction was to ask me if I had gotten these pictures from Google.” She explains. It is an assumption people could easily make since they are 4 by 6 pictures of trash intervened by sharpie on the white border.
“That is when I decided that my audience needed to see “Ariela” in these pictures to know that these bags have not been photo shopped.” She adds. So she started labeling these trash bags with masking tape and once again documenting her interventions of them.
The most interesting thing she learned through this project is the importance of the label. Once she started labeling these trash bags she was essentially assigning a role to them. They would go from being something ephemeral to having an identity.
“I feel that when you label something you are just speaking a language that people understand, especially in American culture where people seem to be obsessed with labels.” She says, “When you are born, you are born with a certain amount of labels and most times it’s not even in your hands the amount of labels that you add.”
In her case she says the labels she was born with are: tall, white, Costa Rican, Jew. Once she started working with trash she added the label “Trash Girl” to her personal story. A lot of times she will run into people who will tell her “I saw trash bags and I thought of you.”
Although making art with trash bags began as an existential project, it eventually led her to be featured in a few exhibitions. In 2012 she exhibited at Scope Art Miami where she had an installation called “Times Square” that consisted of a bunch of clear cubes that were filled with all the bags from all the businesses in Times Square.
She also participated in “Art In Odd Places” in 2013 and in an exhibition called “Street Art Fair” in the New Museum where “Art In Odd Places” had a booth. In the latter one she didn’t want to stage her situations with trash bags so she actually chose to stand right next to the dumpster of the festival.
She became very close to the people who brought the trash bags because they knew they had to just drop it on the floor for her to intervene it. This relationship was especially meaningful to her because she saw that these people were very impressed with the way she was turning their work into art. They would ask her to take pictures of them with the trash bags that had already been intervened and this made them feel special which was really gratifying for her.
After these exhibitions she continued to intervene trash bags on the street, but this time around with graffiti markers because it made her feel more like a street artist. The good thing about graffiti markers is that people could tell how recently she had intervened these bags since the ink takes a while to dry. She thinks the most important part of her art is not the end result but the process:
“I would choose 8 am as my go to time to intervene trash bags because people usually go to work at that time. I would also do a lot of intervening at noon because that is usually when people have their lunch breaks and then around 5 or before it got dark so people could actually get to experience my labeling process.” She explains, “It was really important for me to have people witness my interventions because I feel that a lot of people walked by the trash bags but didn’t necessarily understand that they had been intervened.”
When asked what the end goal of her art is, she merely replies: “If I had to classify what I do I would say that I materialize relationships in my everyday life”
Sigue a Ariela en sus redes sociales: