by Brenda Guesnet
Daniela Groza is a Romanian artist based in New York City working mainly as a documentary photographer. She recently got in touch with SPARK for her newest project Be Kind For Real (BKFR), which is all about practicing kindness through art. The project was exhibited in the Emmanuel Fremin gallery in NYC but is ongoing–Daniela has designed t-shirts that she sells. In keeping with the theme of the project, Daniela decided to donate the proceeds of the project to grassroots organizations she believes in. We were thrilled to learn that we are one of them, and wanted to know more about the project and the motivation behind it.
According to the website of Be Kind For Real, BKFR cares for Art, Feminism, Beauty, Freedom and Kindness for the self, because they are paramount to the enjoyment of life. Daniela says the idea for BKFR came to her when she was experiencing a difficult episode in her life that made her reflect on what she was doing in life, and even what the purpose of life should be. She then encountered kindness not just as a moral imperative, but as an entire way of living.
How to translate this into an art piece? At first, the project was limited to the gallery space, where Daniela exhibited a text-based piece enclosed in a circle on the wall. But this left her unsatisfied: “Right after the show there was this strange, intense feeling of unrest, as in I just gave birth to a kindness-related project, but what ELSE can I do with it?” she says. She goes on to explain: “Since I’ve been working in the fashion industry for a few years now, and clothes, especially here in New York, make strong durable statements, . . . the first art object that came to mind, meant to bring maximum visibility to sharing as a practice, was t-shirts.” So Daniela made sixteen different designs – which you can see in the illustration – that she is now shipping to people all over the world. By splitting half of all proceeds with activist organizations, Daniela’s belief in “generosity to an extreme” finally found an incarnation.
I was intrigued to know what the words on the t-shirts mean, but according to Daniela a proper answer to this question would run the length of a novel. She did tell me that “every word is meant to capture the essence of our experience in the world, so I wanted to stay away from overly used words that advertising pushes on us. I wanted to keep the project simple and strong: we’ve forgotten the meaning of words, and so it’s hard to imagine a true, authentic life nowadays what with all the diluted jargon of advertising taking power away from language”.
It can be pretty hard to pursue radical politics and reject commodification in a city like New York (especially as an artist) but Daniela tries to remain on the grassroots level with her work, which she considers to be “most powerful, especially when it starts with the younger generation”. She goes on: “I think size, in general, tends to override the idea of personal relations… Anything done on a large scale standardizes and de-personalizes, and I think in today’s society impersonality is a plague”. That’s why she made the decision to promote the project only via ‘democratic’ social media, and to donate to organizations that she feels a personal bond with.
Daniela explains that she decided to help SPARK with Be Kind For Real because kindness and feminism are closely related, especially since she feels that with both it’s crucial to practice what you preach: “let’s face it”, she says, “on the surface we all believe in equality but once we are confronted with every day reality, few of those truly act toward and for it.” We’re thrilled to have caught Daniela’s interest as an organization that actively works towards empowering girls and women, and like her, we want to continue Being Kind For Real.