Live at the Dump: Songs of Memory and Forgetting

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In June, interdisciplinary artist, Martha McDonald presented Songs of Memory and Forgetting with RAIR Philly co-founder, Billy Dufala. Songs of Memory and Forgetting took audiences on a musical journey through the lives of people whose possessions ended up at a recycling facility in Northeast Philadelphia. And, yes, the performances did indeed take place Live at the Dump! McDonald, an artist-in-residence at RAIR Philly, collaborated with Dufala to write and perform songs inspired by objects found at the dump that receives some 250 tons of materials a day. In addition, McDonald and Dufala performed the music from instruments recovered from the dump.

RAIR Philly (Recycled Artist in Residency) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2010 by Billy Dufala and Fern Gookin to raise awareness about sustainability using art and design. The program offers residencies and studio space to artists in a very unique setting — a materials recycling center in Northeast Philadelphia called Revolution Recovery. There artists have access to the variety of materials that come into the yard on a daily basis. The objects often inspire artists to challenge notions of “waste culture.”

Songs of Memory and Forgetting was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. We visited RAIR Philly back in May to interview Martha and Billy about the project, and I spent a day following Billy around the yard while he looked for objects that might inspire songs and instruments on which to play the songs. This video is one in the Pew Center’s series called “Questions of Practice,” in which artists discuss their practice in depth. Here, Martha and Billy discuss how the objects found at the dump inspire their work and the theme of impermanence.