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One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Cyborg

Jan 16, 2019 | 737 videos
Video by Aaron and Alex Craig

There’s nothing, it would seem, that Peter Kokis can’t turn into a robot. The Brooklyn performance artist makes cyborgs out of 100 percent recycled materials—oftentimes salvaged from the trash. He builds the 170-pound costumes on his kitchen table. When he’s done, Kokis parades through the streets, a veritable Transformer among mortals.


“I look for complexity in everyday objects,” Kokis says in Alex and Aaron Craig’s short documentary One Man’s Trash. “I look at an object and see its potential.”


Before making the film, the Craigs were familiar with Kokis and his unique passion. But it wasn’t until they followed him around for a day that the filmmakers realized just how dedicated Kokis was to his art. According to the Craigs, they filmed on one of the hottest days of the summer. When they arrived, Kokis had all his windows closed and no air-conditioning to speak of. “It was easily 120 degrees inside his house,” the Craigs told The Atlantic. “We were drenched in sweat while filming, but he was perfectly comfortable. He does it to have his body prepared for heat when he's inside the 170-pound suits.”


During the shoot, Kokis told the Craigs that he planned to make robots for the rest of his life. “He has even lost relationships because he was given the choice between his robots and his girlfriend, and he chose the robots,” the Craigs said. “She couldn't stand the heat.”


Though it may be tempting to dismiss the robots as simply a quirky hobby, the Craigs view Kokis’s art as an effort to spread awareness about sustainability.


“It opened our minds about how much we, as a community, are wasting,” Alex Craig said. “We might not all be able to make cool robots out of trash, but if we all put our minds together, we can figure out how to repurpose materials that would usually end up in the trash. If you think outside the box, we are capable of much more than we realize.”

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Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.