The Poetry Project

Rolando Politi

Born in 1943 amidst WWII in Italy, Rolando Politi is a mature self thought “outsider artist” who has experienced in his lifetime a variety of social philosophical backgrounds with roots in the russian brand of anarchism as best exemplified by Bakunin and the theories of collective anarchism. Early in life he divided his time between Italy and Germany being active in the squatter movements there. He landed in the lower east side of new york city in the early eighties at the beginning of a squatter movement in the neighborhood and he actively became involved in organizing the takeover and restoration of the many abandoned buildings of the time. This specific squatter movement in the lower east side went on for years (about 20 years) until the dawn of the 21st century and the activism in the self help process supplied him with many building skills, the experience was a derivative that molded his art form.

At the turn of the millennium he organized and then promoted an artist collective named: TRASH WORSHIP which went on for a few years by staging performances and installations. The main element of the shows and creations were our ever present trashed resources, in short: garbage. The original twist in the works of the collective at the time was the immersion of a spiritual approach to the process with the creation of rituals and songs and even a “prayer book”!

He then went on to work in India in the “informal sector” where he partnered with organizers in the union of waste pickers in Delhi.

In the special district of Seemapuri where the mainstay of the economy was based on picking waste and then reprocessing it to the recycling industry he started a small co-op of women waste workers who introduced a value added concept to their work by creating small toys and flowers operating as a cottage industry. The hands down experience with this community of waste workers was very helpful for him to gain further insights into the reality of life as a waste worker in India.

After returning to the lower east side he was further convinced that the “recycling” programs by default i.e. empowering city governments for the collection and processing of recyclable materials was only a “placebo” given to people a “politically correct” one but in reality it turned out to be an inefficient process with much “waste” of resources plus corruption .

He has always refused to be categorized as a “recycling” artist preferring the more accurate description of a “gleaner”, a term with ancient roots back to biblical times when the gleaners were protected by a religious law which forbade a landowner of possessing the entire harvest meaning that any resource felled by the wayside during the process rightfully belonged to the gleaning pickers!

Fast forwarding to our times, he sees himself as a modern day gleaner gutter picking in the lower east side the resources which fall on our sidewalks and his major public art installation the “Winter Flowers” at La Plaza garden in the LES is a mixed gleaned media work.

He has also inspired and fostered the “Garbagia” collective which performs annually in LES gardens a puppetry show sourcing the materials used in it from the discarded resources found in our streets.