Name, city state, astrological sign, etc.?
My name is Ben Goraj and I’m from the western gates of Detroit Michigan, USA. When I’m not creating tangible expressions of art I’m zoned out contemplating some sort of nuanced esoteric concept in order to mine some sort of greater meaning from the seemingly ordinary.
How’d you get your start in recycled art?
I started using cigar bands that came wrapped around Phillies Blunts. Since Phillies offered 19 flavors in their heyday, it gave me a broad color palette and enabled me to construct many different large scale images, totaling 11 currently.
My can art started more as a challenge to use aluminum for an art form that is typically paper, coupled with the fact paper fades really easily and aluminum cans offer a more physically durable, commercially resonant material than mere copy paper. I’ve recently started using cigarillo wrappers for origami for similar reasons.
How has recycled art transformed your life?
It affects me in abstract ways. Most notably is the idea of “renewal”. The term “renewable resource” has been sloganized and refers to the actual material being used, but psychologically, when one turns trash into treasure so‐to‐speak, it’s almost like an alchemical transmutation in one’s mind; or a mystical sense of resurrection, which may be appropriate since Detroit is the Renaissance City. Once you can breathe new life into something, it creates a sort of awareness of other things that can be rejuvenated or reborn, and you start to look at things that had previously been considered depleted with whole new potentiality.
What is your process to create recycled art, does an idea or concept just come to you, or do you adopt a form of mechanical thinking, etc.?
My process is totally circumstantial, based on what I’m already doing and what is available to me at any given time. In terms of ideas for subject matter though, the brands I choose to make origami with or the images I choose to depict out of blunt bands are somewhat strategic. I go with local brands whenever I can (no pun intended) and then pop culture brands as secondary themes. In terms of blunt imagery, I’ve stuck to themes that resonate with the medium, the classic Detroit “D” as the first and only image currently in print.
Where or how did you get your inspiration?
As sick as it may be, I’m inspired by our grotesque, materialist/consumerist pop culture. I am a product of this culture, for better or worse, and I ultimately embrace it with hopes of transforming it rather than schizophrenically deny it. I’ve come to realize that my non‐ethnic, mutt‐like American ancestry essentially makes me “white trash”, so I use trash itself to resonate with other people who might have similar identification, independent of race. It’s the sense that even trash can be salvaged, beautified and amplified through collectivity, a sort of democratic idealization of a working class reality: separately we might be disposable, divided and conquered, but collectively, if we are arrayed and aligned correctly, we can reinforce each other and create a larger expression than we can individually. That’s how I see it anyhow.
What is the craziest or most unique and unusual or controversial art piece you created from recycled material into art and why?
My art isn’t really controversial…
Any advice to those who are considering creating art from recycled materials?
Just be aware of your environment and go with what you know. Everything around us is a material that can be transformed, and it’s a quality of human creativity to utilize the materials available to us. The more creative and resourceful we can be, the better Humanity will be.