In an era of disposability, it is common for materials that have outlived their original purpose to be deemed useless or dated and then discarded. It's considered expedient to tear down a dilapidated building rather than renovate. Often, expedient is synonymous with cheaper. What gets lost or missed with policies that only prioritize new or innovative?
Preservation is a form of redevelopment and can be transformational for a community. The Principle of Repurpose + Re-propose asserts that not only can old resources be allocated to new endeavors, but that objects and projects do not have to be monetized to be useful. Artists are renowned for transforming objects into art, for transposing the common into the extraordinary. This is artistry, and artistry is alchemy—it allows one thing to become another.
Alchemy is a kind of philosophy: a kind of
thinking that leads to a way of understanding.
— Marcel Duchamp
With limited financial resources many artists, activities, stewards, and neighbors have acted as local alchemists. They've worked with what and who was available, and turned deficiencies into abundances.
ALCHEMY IN ACTION - OBJECTS
Chakaia Booker is a sculptor whose work transforms discarded construction materials into art. Booker's extensive body of work encompasses performance art, photography, clothing, and textiles. Her work in transforming old tires into complex assemblages fuses the artist's explorations of ecology, racial and economic difference, globalization, and gender. Booker has stated that tires resonate with her "for their versatility and rich range of historical and cultural associations."
ALCHEMY IN ACTION - PEOPLE
Cities like Detroit are grappling with myriad issues resulting from the collapse of once integral industries. Populations that developed skills to work in now contracting or obsolete industries are struggling to adapt to new economic realities—as are companies in need of an increased labor force. Companies like Shinola, a high-end wristwatch manufacturer in Detroit, are leveraging the manufacturing experience of the local population into employable skills. Shinola transforms these basic skills by flying in expert watchmakers from Thailand and Switzerland to train employees. For Shinola, the time and expense is ultimately worth it to ensure the company can prosper in its own city.
SEE YOU ON JUNE 22
Take a moment to think about your community and the opportunities that exist within it. How can you, operating as an alchemist, Repurpose + Re-propose? Share your ideas in the comments below, and be prepared to share them at the Public Convening on Ethical Redevelopment on June 22.
RSVP for the Public Convening, a free and open public event.