Aïda Gómez
Bad Seeds

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They are everywhere in Berlin, but we barely register them: Aïda Gómez explores the phenomenon of cigarette butts in public spaces. In her three-part installation, she approaches the unwelcome remains from different directions.

The first part of Gómez’s installation documents her approach. On the walls are objects and photographs that explain how the artist approached public spaces. At the beginning of the project, she launched a survey, addressed to all Berliners. Gómez created a QR code that asked, „What do you like the most in Berlin and what the less?“. She printed this on posters that were attached to fences, railings, and park benches. The artist received about 100 responses that clearly identified garbage as the most pressing problem in the capital. As a result, Gómez set out with a baseball cap with „I love Berlin“ printed on it and a hand grabber to collect cigarette butts that were lying on the streets. She received a lot of encouragement from members of the public during this action in public spaces.

For the participatory artist, the most important thing is to build trust with the participants and not to disappoint this trust. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was challenging to contact and stay in touch with participants, but all of them were invited to the exhibition opening.

Aïda Gómez – „Bad Seeds“

The model for Gómez’s participatory approach is the „Gotham Handbook“ by Paul Auster and Sophie Calle. For this project, Auster created a fictional protagonist similar to Calle. Calle received instructions from Auster that she could implement in her daily life, and that would improve life in New York. For example, Calle should smile at passers-by or strike up a conversation with strangers. Her duties also included giving cigarettes to homeless people and sprucing up a space. For this, she chose a phone booth, which she furnished with flowers, cigarettes, and food, as well as a chair. Gómez has adopted this approach of engaging in exchange in public spaces, interacting and actively making a difference, rather than just being a passive observer.

Gómez used the collected cigarette butts as material for other works in her installation. She covered a black 2 x 3.5 m canvas with cigarette butts that form the phrase „We will still be here in 2031.“ Gómez is alluding to the fact that the fragments of cigarettes do not degrade for ten years. In addition, the artist made 25 to 35 cm plastic cigarette butts, which she spread on the floor. We cannot ignore the butts because of their size, however, we can kick them away quite playfully.

The fourth part was also humorous: This was four potted plants. Carnations, daisies, and a strelitzia grow in ashtrays, as a perfect decoration for the smokers‘ home. In transforming cigarette butts into potted plants, Gómez’s tongue-in-cheek attempt to find some beauty in the trash still cannot disguise this serious problem we currently face. The way in which humans deal with waste is neither good nor sustainable. With her installation, Gómez draws attention to the global problem of cigarette butts. The artist redirects our gaze, which is trained to ignore this small but filthy garbage.

Text: Dr. Silke Förschler

About Aïda Gómez

Aïda Gómez has a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Castilla La Mancha. She studied sculpture at the Kunsthochschule Weißensee in Berlin and has been an artist-in-residence at various institutions in Argentina, Poland, Iceland, Portugal and the Netherlands. Her work includes playfull urban installations and the unexpected transformation of social codes in our daily environment. She has a penchant for finding the most creative ways of capturing the attention of passerby and challenging their regular perception. Also, she is able to turn complete strangers into playmates in her improvised urban playgrounds. She also gives workshops that invite us to discover the power of urban art to creatively transform the space we inhabit.

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Fresh A.I.R. #5 Online-Showcase

The Online-Showcase offers an opportunity to get an overview of the highly diverse projects of the fourth class of Fresh A.I.R. artists with their different kinds of media and aesthetics.

On view are video and photographic materials about the individual projects, each of which is accompanied by an explanatory text that aims to offer insights into the work’s aesthetic experience.

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