Provocation 1: 

Julietta Singh

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Julietta Singh is the author of The Breaks (forthcoming, Coffee House Press, 2021), No Archive Will Restore You (Punctum Books, 2018), and Unthinking Mastery: Dehumanism and Decolonial Entanglements (Duke UP, 2018). She teaches in English and Gender Studies at the University of Richmond.


Alyana J.

Since having to wear mask, I realized I don’t have to think about my facial expressions, so I decided to record my facial expressions, specifically at home just because I truly don’t care what face expressions I make since there is no one around, I decided to just record/ draw little doodles of my face gestures which turned into a habit of me writing down/ documenting how I feel every evening, it has become a way of me just “letting go” and being more in-tune with myself and emotions.

Douglas Bailey

“The Birds” represent many things. the plague doctors of old the current pandemic. and the birds that ask questions are a reflection of the hand-blown glass birds back in the '80s that would constantly dip their heads in the water. as a novelty. here that is echoed by the actions of asking questions. The ceremony involved echos the question answer responses given at secret societies from the masons to eastern star, to the Grove in northern California, and many cults that have developed out of those groups. That type of ritual was turned on its head, to create a modern situation of current dysphoria.
  My use of the horror motif in the film relates to the strife and the political horror in the streets and on the media today. Our day-to-day continued insanity of fueled and ginned up hate and division. although I was making art, media can twist this as violence which is what has been going on for quite some time. so to mimic this I filmed the making of art, a thoughtful practice to deliberately being misrepresented as violence, and the words of thoughtful practice and kind ritual to be that of something that seeps gloom and doom or that of creepy, further the discomfort of viewing. I must state that the saying that I have included in the ceremony has been my long-standing philosophy in both my blacksmithing practice of recycled material. my offering free karate lessons to inner-city kids paired my 26 years of working with special ed. My statement remains the same. all things with imagination time care and effort can become something new and beautiful.   so that simplistic bird feeder may look, it still feeds many birds today as it still hangs in my lemon tree. and will become a school art project for a k-8 school.

Hayden W.

This is a response to Julietta Singh’s provocation, asking me to document my typically discarded items and to consider them in a new light.

Coffee Filter with Used Grounds.
Every morning my day starts with coffee. I have a bad habit of using filters for only a single cup of coffee, which is quite wasteful. An ulterior method would be to get a reusable filter, or a coffee maker designed for single cup production. Upon reflection, I think of what a room filled with every filter I’ve ever used would look like, if there’d be any room to breath. I also consider the coffee grounds, the husk of what flavorful essence the hot water forced out. To this end, I also consider the coffee. I think about how I drink cup after cup, rarely stopping to savor. I also recall an old biology report I did on coffee. Despite its health benefits, coffee farming typically ravages the environment. The best kind of coffee to buy are the brands that are “shade grown”, because forested areas are not chopped down to increase coffee bean production. Coffee bean plants typically grow in the shade, naturally.On top of researching how to properly recycle coffee filters, I found this link on several ways to reuse the old coffee grounds.

Plastic Toothpicks. 
They’re the kind of ones that have little frayed ends that go between the teeth really well. I use like two a day. They’re small, but they surely add up in landfills and the like. I should switch to wooden ones, but they do not get between the teeth properly. I suppose overall, floss is the most environmentally friendly thing. I researched many options for biodegradable floss, so that’s something to think about. Would it be possible to wash a plastic toothpick for repeated use?

Orange Peel.
This one provides an opportunity for reflection on survival and nature. The orange exists as sustenance for me and I peel off the skin like it's a candy wrapper. But that wrapper exists to protect the orange, so that it can survive and spread its seeds. So in a way, the orange is a sacrifice of a lesser being, just like eating meat. The only difference is that the orange plant never felt any pain when it was harvested. I would like a world where it was guaranteed an animal would never have to suffer for me to eat it.It almost seems like a waste to throw something away so bright and vibrant. I could start putting them in some drinking water to soak in orange flavoring.

Disinfectant Wipes.
Terrible for the environment, but so convenient for cleaning. To add to the guilt of using them, I often use paper towels to dry off the residue. I clean less than normal people, but it's no excuse. These are some of the two worst offenders of the landfill crisis. I will use this reflection to consciously make an effort to clean via reusable methods.

Pizza Box.
Such a waste of advertising. Not to mention, the pizza itself still has a plastic wrapping and a cardboard base. When will mankind learn to consider these types of problems? One single wrapper is all you need for a stiff, frozen pizza. It doesn’t even need to be in color, just the brand name, health info, and instructions. I do recycle my cardboard, so I can take some credit for that.I will also take a second to appreciate the artists that create such colorful and attractive boxes for these soulless corporations to make their product. Even though that artist is selling their talents in a problematic way, there's still passion behind the design.

To be honest, most other items on my daily list of trash are mostly just variations of these kinds of items. What highlighting these few have done is provided a moment to reflect on all the waste I produce and whether or not I do enough (I don’t).To complete the provocation, I’ve decided to utilize the old coffee grounds to create a small piece of art, to help appreciate the gratuitous amounts of coffee I drink every year.

In my piece, which I’ve decided to leave untitled, was a spur of the moment gestural painting. Acrylic paint, raw umber, was combined with water and used coffee grounds to create a gritty, earthy paste. I spread this mixture over unprimed canvas, taped to a board for security. Having just drunk a cup of coffee, I used my energetic brush strokes to frantically create a mass near the center of the canvas and moved outward. The outcome was a static looking blob that seemed to be moving in every direction, as if the coffee grounds were atoms colliding at unfathomable speeds. I noticed that the work could resemble a meteorite, perhaps representing planet Earth's speedy path towards doom.The work does have an urgency to it, possibly brought on by the coffee running through my veins. I think it represents the masses of trash building up in our canvas that we call Earth.

Emily P.

I choose to waste my time apologizing and caring for others, all while I harm myself without apology. My makeup bag does not have makeup, but the things I use and abuse daily to keep me beautiful in the eyes of those around me. Moisturizer to keep my skin silky smooth, a disposable vape to sustain the oral fixation I have developed from stress, and the xanax prescription I have had since I was fifteen years old to hide the symptoms of my mental illness. I am perceived as put together, yet I flush away pills into my bloodstream. I fill my lungs with smoke. A way of maintaining myself that will surely harm me, the way others do to me, but I find solace in knowing that this harm is my choice. The containers empty day by day, as my needs for consumption scream internally and externally. I honor this waste, for it is the gasoline in my body, as though I am nothing more than a vehicle. I will forever be stuck in the cycle of being a consumer.

                Figure 1. “Sorry mom”

Katie H.

While walking through the park I noticed a landscaper trimming trees and bushes and blowing the stray leaves away with the leaf blower. I collected some of the leaves and sticks and weaved them together with som fibers. I took the artwork back to the same park and hung the weaving on a tree in front of a flat rock to use as a meditation focal point.

Oriana G.

Every other week my partner buys me a bouquet of flowers, typically roses. We both enjoy keeping fresh flowers in the apartment and at times will have multiple different bouquets. I typically just wait until the flowers have lived their course and dispose of them, but I decided to cleanse some petals as they were slightly drying. After being sanitized, they were laid out on a paper towel in direct sunlight to air dry.

After a couple of weeks of collecting, cleansing, and drying, I then collected all the necessary ingredients for a rose petal sugar scrub. I am a resourceful and sustainable queen, so I gathered a reusable jar, coconut oil, sugar (in the Smuckers jar), lavender oil, and of course my rose petals. I cleansed the jar with a “Compassion” incense while setting my intentions by repeating the mantra “I love myself. I am enough. I have everything I need.” I continued to repeat the mantra while crushing up the petals, adding in oils, and mixing in the sugar.

At the end of my ritual, I expressed my gratitude to all my ingredients and where they came from. I thanked the roses for their beauty and antioxidants. I thanked the sugar for its sweetness and exfoliating texture. I thanked the coconut oil for its moisture and prosperity. I thanked the lavender for its soothing element and grace. Now I must thank Julietta Singh for the provocation. Thank you!

Mindi R.

I grabbed brown paper grocery bags from our continually growing stack, an unwanted product of grocery shopping during the pandemic. I tear off any handles and cut the bags apart, transforming them into long strips.
Then using thinned acrylic paints, I paint each side, sometimes swirling colors in a limited palette, sometimes trying spray paint. This time, I used 6 bags.
When the first sides dry I flip them and paint the other sides.
This process is meditative. It allows reflection on the materials involved, the bag itself, it’s purposes in all its incantations and embodiments. I think of it as a container, a vessel, a repository of gifts and sustenance. This bag is a sign that I am reliant on the labor of others to feed me, to get food to me. I’m grateful.
Painting the bags becomes a ceremony of sorts, a deep deliberate engagement with the afterthought artifact that accompanies so many things, that serves me in so many ways. Here, it transforms. Each bag becomes an artistic medium, becomes an art-based process and product.
After I paint the strips, I cut them into smaller strips. These smaller strips then become pages I combine into book form.
I’m not sure what these books are. Are they books written in/as art? Are they the artifacts of a ritualistic practice of honoring the oft-ignored? Are they sketchbooks? Are they a collection of small paintings? Of cards to give? Other things? I’m not sure if I even need to define them.
I might just distribute them and see what happens.

Danny Lazcano

Discarded Vinegar bottle made new and purposeful. Made ceremony with it and it took flight (literally). Joy and inner child were experienced along with imagination for the next generation.

James Thurman

As part of my efforts to live healthier, I eat an orange or mandarin orange every day.  I became experimenting with keeping the peels and seeing what happened as they dried.  Being a metalsmith and jeweler, I often unconsciously place objects on my body, especially my hands, to see how they look as personal adornment.  By simply holding the discarded peels in place with a toothpick as they dried, they became quite wearable rings.

Nikki Fairchild

I have a shelf of discarded things (well ok more than one shelf)…why do I keep these things and what do they do?

I do not have an inventory of these things (objects/bodies) but, for and with me, they are intra-active nexus points of spacetimemattering. I don’t necessarily ‘dwell’ on them but they affectively connect me to past present and future happenings. These things collaborate with, and co-constitute, my own becomings (as a researcher, teacher, academic, colleagues, parent, spouse). They matter, and in mattering they become a matter of care – maybe dwelling on things becomes reconstituted as a (re)membering of events and practice that influence, trouble and are in relations with us. The things on my shelves are agentic and offer new possibilities for thinking/doing whenever they re-enter my field of vision. These things matter to me, they are productive, they assemble and generate assemblages, they produce new affective resonances in/with me…even though to some they are inanimate objects that should be discarded.


As a professional portrait photographer, I discard hundreds of photos a day. Each imperfection, a snarl instead of a smile, eyes closed from the bright sunlight, the misery of staring into the sun, all tossed into a virtual recycle bin never to be thought of again. These works of art cast away so easily, are people’s true self. We want the image of perfection shown on our Instagram, our mantle, and given away as Christmas cards, yet we shy away from the silly faces, the awkward moments, and in reality our true self. We think that no one wants to see that and I as the photographer have a role to play in this false sense of reality my clients wish to portray. I can’t send them the photos of silliness, of the awkward moments, or the conversations when they thought I wasn’t taking a photo. These images don’t sell and the clients do not want them. Looking over the images from my shoots this weekend, I see a pattern, I see a flow, I see life in it’s rarest moments. Life happening, people conversing, silly faces, these moments in time are not captured and kept on record any more. Therefore, I have created a collage of those images, preserved in time, showing what people do not want to share; reality.

Hermance L.

I waste much more than I think I do. For the past few days, I have been paying great attention to the things I discard, from my pasta water to my plastic wrappings of the pasta. The only thing not wasted would be the pasta. Most of my waste and consumption comes from food. The other night I ordered take out (way too tired to cook for myself), and I still have my curry frozen in the freezer. The food came in a paper bag, with single use napkins that I keep in case guests would like to use it instead of a serviette. Instead of using the paper bag for my next trip to the dumpster, I decided this would be my canvas for the week. I was going to do a collage, but I did not have glue, so I looked around to see what else I was planning on discarding and my ashtray came to mind. So, I made a makeshift smudging stick with an old page from my daily journal and decided to draw a face. I have no proper art training, but this ended up being my project for the night, playing with the ashes. I ended up losing track of time with this project. It was mesmerizing seeing how different levels of burnt produce different types of textures and opacities. It was so much fun feeling the paper and ash bits under my finger, seeing the gray beginning to turn into a face. It was very difficult to do the details, as my makeshift smudging tool did not work very well. But it was so fun playing with all these materials I would have thrown away without any thought. What used to be my trash is now my play at the end of the day.

Silvia Pillow Neretti ︎ Visual Communication & Web work + Cargo ︎