Mapping Brooklyn With Trash, One Block at a Time

September 4, 2013 | Marina Galperina

Artist Jennifer Maravillas is mapping Brooklyn, all of Brooklyn. “The name of my map is 71 Square Miles because that’s how big the borough is,” she tells ANIMAL, peeling old crinkled flyers off posts and picking up scribbled-up, torn-out paper from the sidewalk. “I’m interested in trash because it shows so much about people’s lives. It’s language and design and it’s more this little piece of thing that’s flying around in the wind.”

Back in her studio, Maravillas unrolls the map. Her giant 10 foot by 10 foot cartographic effort is getting filled in, slowly. Since February 2012, she’s been collecting bags of paper trash everywhere, from Brighton Beach to Greenpoint to Bed Stuy and back again, cutting it precisely to fit the shape of each block where she retrieved it. She glues them down, assembling a mosaic of advertisements, hand-written notes, wrappers and posters — little, random discarded bits that shape the borough. “This one is funny,” she points. “It says, ‘Fuck you, Jacob!'”

“My inspiration was to explore the city, meet people and get to know the entire borough instead of just the little pockets,” Maravillas says.

So what’s do other Brooklynites think of the artist, cheerfully scavenging their garbage, block by block? “Most people just stare at me. I’m kind of the weirdest person on the sidewalk right now,” she giggles, putting on a sturdy, protective glove before bending down to catch another discarded artifact. Better safe than sorry that you just nicked your arm on something gross in the street, right?

(Video: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)