2018 marks the third year that the Loisaida Center has hosted the Garbagia summer program is taking place. It consists of three weeks of workshops consisting of costume design, set construction, and story development that ends in a culminating theatre production. In 2016, the theme was Garbagia Island, a story of Pirates discovering a dystopian version of Puerto Rico covered in trash. In 2017 it was Garbagia Universe, a space themed story based on ideas from Latin American Modernist Joaquín Torres García. I had the opportunity to talk with Rolando Politi, Daniela Fabrizi, and Marta Dann about the origins of Garbagia and how it started at the Loisaida Center.
“The original concept started in Portland Oregon in a cafeteria when I was with a couple of my friends,” Politi said. At the end of the 1990s, Garbage had been his area of work for a while and he had the idea to do a Garbagia Park, conveying the message, “Garbage is everywhere.” When he came back to New York, he and his friends found some vacant land in the South Bronx and started building a few rides out of tires and what not. They got a few rides made but in 2001, after the September 11th attacks, the police presence was increased around the city and the property that Politi and his friends had was close to a highly patrolled bridge, and they had to give up the project.
“Garbagia is the whole world, everything you touch and see is Garbagia this [glass cup] ends up garbagia” He explained that the word garbage has a negative meaning so he thought sounded slightly more respectable. In Politi’s time in India, he saw that waste was a resource to people there, “Every discard has a value, there are whole communities that are built around garbagia. I learned a lot from working with them, they have a different mentality than here.”
In the beginning stages of the Garbagia summer program at the Loisaida Center, Daniela Fabrizi was working on projects with fellow artistic activist, Zuleyka Alejandro, as well as doing work with the Loisaida Festival. Fabrizi, Alejandro, and their colleagues naturally aligned with Politi’s ethos and aesthetic, which is how they came to collaborate and to use the name Garbagia for the program.
Over the past three years, the program has evolved as the artists have developed best practices in executing the production. Marta Dann join as an early participant, and long-time community artist, working on costume design and performance. She has known Rolando Politi for a long time since they were both involved in the activist/squatter community. She mentioned that the creative process has always been very fluid and she has enjoyed that. At first, the three workshops all took place in one small room, but now, everyone focuses on one facet per week, like storyboarding the first week and performance development the next. All of the materials used in the show are either found, brought in by the artists, donated, or acquired in some way other than purchasing.
This year’s production is titled “The Three Green Suns,” which will be based on a story written by Politi about the teen years (2013-19), personifying the time period where the earth is going through changes in climate and politics. The artists involved are excited about this year’s production and have been working very diligently to pull everything together. Recycling and issues surrounding waste have always been a crucial part of the Loisaida neighborhood’s identity. Hopefully, the Garbagia summer program will continue to be around in the years to come, especially since issues surrounding waste are as relevant as ever.