INHABITAT: The show is really centered on “A Working Class”, your most recent piece, which is also a big departure from your other works. Can you tell us a little about that piece?
Alex White Mazzarella: “A Working Class” is a wall installation of plastic liquor nips, oil and refreshment containers excavated out of the underserved streets of Willets Point, Queens. It speaks towards not just the Willets Point workers but the low and middle classes worldwide who are increasingly seeing their wealth diminished and even undermined by private powers. In Willets Point, eminent domain is being used by the city to transfer this land to another class of private interests who will manifest their idea of development. Free enterprise – what this country is supposedly built to achieve – turned Willets Point into what is now a regional automobile repair destination. Workers are incredibly innovative , creative and above all invested in Willets Point. If the city were to take a democratic approach of listening and developing a redevelopment plan around their skills and their needs, those workers would be capitalized as assets. But instead the EDC’s new development is disregarding them and their well being. As a result, they say they will either be on unemployment or be deported. These are real jobs being destroyed to make money for the ultra wealthy and working poor waged jobs at the mall that will be WASTED. This is just short sighted and speaks to why income distribution is becoming everyday more skewed to the 1%. In fact a worker now tells me that India is feeling more like our notion of “America” than the United States does as he’s constantly getting fined and harassed by city workers. These people are taxed without receiving roads, water and waste management. WASTED. Meanwhile high-rise luxury condominiums are getting 25-year tax abatements. “A Working Class” is a tribute to these workers that struggle for democratic representation and a reflection on the course of increased inequality that our current foundations of private power is producing.
INHABITAT: What was your main inspiration for WASTED? What are the underlying messages you wanted to convey?
Alex White Mazzarella: Wasted is a way of defining a wide range of conversations on the discarded and disregarded that I’ve been spurning through my artwork over the past three years.
INHABITAT: Can you tell us a little bit about why you choose to work with recycled materials over new?
Alex White Mazzarella: Largely because these materials come out of certain processes that stain them with the stamp of social systems and life functions. They are the materials that make things go round, and indicative of the time and age in which we are living. These materials and objects are more than just their composite – they can carry stories if used intelligently to articulate stories, emotions and narratives. Recycling materials into artwork also mean that people are familiar with them because they are there in people’s lives. When taken out of a certain context of everyday life and put into another more spiritual one, the everyday familiarity sticks and brings the viewer a little bit closer to what is being articulated. We live in a material world but are driven by immaterial souls. That in a way is what the material art is all about.