Fabio de Minicis
For most of us living in Barcelona, ‘recycling’ signifies those blue, yellow, brown and green plastic containers where we dump our bottles, cans and newspapers on the way out the door (when we remember to do so).
The people at Barcelona’s Drap-Art see recycling in a very different light. Drap-Art is a non-profit organisation that was started by Tanja Grass in 1995, and is, in her words, “dedicated to the promotion of creative recycling through the organisation of festivals, exhibitions, markets and workshops.” Recycling is a career, a mission, a passion. Tanja grew up in Formentera surrounded by a family of artists, and later studied language and translation in universities in both Barcelona and Cologne, Germany. In the early Nineties, by now back in Barcelona, she became involved in the underground art world and collaborated in events organised by artists such as Accidents Polipoètics and Simona Levi, and curator and art historian Rosa Pera. In 1994, Pera was asked by the organisers of a festival called Braderie de l’Art in Roubaix, France, to make a selection of artists from Barcelona to participate in their event. The concept of the festival was to invite 150 artists to create works out of recycled or reused materials, and then sell their works at the festival with a price tag of between €1 and €300.
One of the people Rosa Pera invited was Tanja’s boyfriend Christian Konn, a jeweller who fashioned pins out of electrochips in his free time. Tanja, Christian and a mutual friend spontaneously decided to form an artist’s collective and present at the festival together.
Tanja says she was “immediately fascinated by the potential of the event in a city like Barcelona,” because so many of her friends were already incorporating recycled materials into their artwork. She decided to approach Pera and asked if they would be interested in putting on a similar festival in Barcelona. The response was, “Well, why don’t you do it instead?”
That festival initially helped Tanja find a sponsor for her event—“which ultimately fell through,” she said ruefully—but she went ahead with the first festival in 1996 regardless.
She recruited all the artists that she knew of who used recyclable materials in their work and got them involved. Tanja also recruited nearly 40 people to help organise the event. “We were working, but the budget was so low that we were practically volunteers, all of us. That was a model that was really not sustainable.” Over the years, they were forced to restructure. Drap-Art now has three full-time employees and a number of volunteers who organise the festival each year, as well as a permanent office and gallery space in the old town.
She says that although it has been a struggle to keep the organisation going in the current economic conditions, it is more than worth it because “we’re in constant contact with art and with artists. Also, we are teaching the younger generations to use art and sustainable activities as a tool to transform protest into positive change in the community. You can really see the fruit of your work at the end of the process.” This year, the festival (which is marking its 10th edition) runs from December 13th to January 5th, 2014, and takes place in the CCCB and its surroundings, Plaça Reial and the Hemp Museum. It features 19 artists and designers, including Pistolo Ulises Eliza, Fabio De Minicis and Karol Bergeret. Also participating is German sculptor HA Schult, who became a prominent figure in the art world in the late Nineties, when he created 1,000 full-sized human figures out of recyclable material. Schult is a strong supporter of Drap-Art, and is donating one of his infamous ‘Trash Men’ to help raise funds for the organisation. There will be a designer fair during the last three days of the festival, located in the hall of the CCCB, where the public can view never-before- seen original designs, and an art auction on the final day. “I want people to take away from the festival—hopefully—a piece of art that they’ve bought, which in turn supports the artists who have
been kind enough to support Drap-Art over the years,” says Tanja. “I also would like people to become more conscious of their economic decisions, and to realise that there is an alternative, and a good one, to excessive consumerism.”