Urban environmentalist and labor rights activist Bermet Borubaeva uses trash as a medium in her work. Bermet is interested in the intersection of arts, climate science, and environmental inequality. Her practice is dedicated to the global problem of food waste and growing ecological disruptions caused by excessive urbanization. Bermet is a co-founder of Bishkek School of Contemporary Art.
Bermet draws our attention to industrial overproduction of processed food and the carelessness with which humans waste almost half of these products rather than bake their own bread or cook dinners. Global food mass production contributes to the destruction of the planet’s ecological systems, causing massive deforestation, the pollution of oceans and scarcity of freshwater. Her work on environmental inequality helps us understand that the developed world’s privileged indulgence in haute cuisine leads to the production of food waste on an enormous scale. At the same time, the food insecurity for hundreds of millions in developing countries is rapidly increasing due to the inequities brought into stark focus by the COVID-19 pandemic. The artist’s most recent intervention highlighted this issue when she lived exclusively on leftover food while working as a cook in a café.
During her ArtsLink International Fellowship 2020 (virtual and in-person residencies), Bermet and her US host organization Hyde Park Art Center, in collaboration with Chicago-based Urban Growers Collective, present a research-focused inter-city, international platform and public program which began with activities in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in spring 2020. The overarching project titled Trash culminates in a series of workshops and open conversations among artists and practitioners, and a public program with both in-person and virtual components to open the project to as wide an audience as possible.