Robin Nagle at Sunview Luncheonette for Field R/D

Robin Nagle

Photo by Natalie Conn.

On December 12, Robin Nagle gave a talk “Victory Boulevard, For Real” at the Sunview Luncheonette in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The talk focused on the history of Fresh Kills Landfill and the transformation into Freshkills Park from an anthropologist’s perspective, situating the story of site regeneration in the history, culture, and systems of garbage in New York. Delivered alongside pierogi and soup, the presentation was a culminating event at the end of the first year of development for the art-research project Freshkills Park: Field R/D.

Robin Nagle

Robin Nagle is the anthropologist-in-residence for New York’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and clinical professor of environmental studies and anthropology at New York University. Her book, Picking Up, tells the story of what it takes to be a New York City sanitation worker, and why anyone should care. It’s based on several years of ethnographic research with DSNY, including time on the job as a sanitation worker. Her heaviest day behind the truck was 14.8 tons, and she still has vivid memories of getting lost in the Bronx while plowing snow.

Nagle’s research explores the category of material culture known generically as “garbage,” or, things we decide are no longer worth keeping. She is particularly interested in the many forms of labor and infrastructure that waste requires, the spatial demands it imposes on urban areas, and the organizational responses that it inspires. As an anthropologist, she studies the relationship between trash and cities; this work fits within the new interdisciplinary field of discard studies. With colleagues at Sanitation and NYU, she has established a DSNY/Fresh Kills Oral History project and has been building momentum for a Museum of Sanitation in New York. She collaborated with the City Reliquary in Williamsburg on their current exhibit, NYC Trash! Past, Present, and Future, which you can see through April.

Freshkills Park: Field R/D

Freshkills Park: Field R/D is a new art-research project that investigates the future role of art and public engagement at the Freshkills site. Organized by artist/curator Dylan Gauthier and Freshkills Park’s Mariel Villeré, the project will involve independent and collaborative research, site visits and field trips, shared meals and conversations over the course of several months.

The goal of “Field R/D” is to work with artists to develop an approach for bringing an exhibition, discussion and event series to Freshkills Park in 2018. A publication will be created from the documentation of their process over the next year. The first year cohort of Field R/D artists included: Gabri Christa, Billy Dufala / Dufala Brothers, Mary Mattingly, Lize Mogel, Nancy Nowacek, Audrey Snyder & Joe Riley, Kendra Sullivan, with documentary photographer Natalie Conn.

This project is made possible with support from the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation Art and Social Justice Grant Program.

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