"What do the things we leave behind say about us? What do the things we look at as disposable or that we use to the level of their disposability say about our hunger and consumption, our lifestyles and neighborhoods, or our values? This series is a meditation on disposability as channeled through paying attention to things left along the sidewalks of Harlem. The city becomes a symphony, a ballet-like dance between anonymity and intimacy. Something like furniture or a mattress, things which have held our belongings and our bodies for such a long time, become a burden once too thoroughly used. The city then takes responsibility for that burden as soon as it is placed on the sidewalk. It feels like this weird transfer of power. I remember when I got rid of my mattress. All the while I was thinking about past lovers. How the bed held us and, afterwards, me while grieving the loss of them. How it held me while grieving the loss of my father. I thanked it and then I let it go. I had to walk it down five flights of stairs. But once it was on the sidewalk, it was anyone’s and no one’s. Its story became one of assumption rather than one of specificity. I walked past it a few times before sanitation came to retrieve it and I remembered its stories. To everyone else, it was mere anonymous rubbish.
So, this series is also about stories. How these items all have one. From the three cups left atop the cooler outside of a bodega, to the old school barbershop chairs, to the hair weave in the trash can. I can imagine their prior lives and the people who they belonged to. While the photos of the dumpsters and mattress outside of the closed Rangel headquarters, the Jordan’s box inside of the trash can, and the Martin Luther King pamphlet scattered along the sidewalk are a meditation on values, politics, and economics. What do these items say about the Black American experience in this still majority Black neighborhood? Is this reality one that will be swept away as easily as when the garbage truck comes by through the persistence of gentrification? I can’t say for sure, but I can say that one can gauge this by keeping an eye on the neighborhood’s trash. Because nothing tells me that I’ve arrived back to my new home after being away quite like walking past hair weave tumbleweeding along the sidewalks and found inside of trash cans."
See Tyson's full series for DISPOSABLE here.