Matthew One Bailey

We asked some young people in Copenhagen to share their thoughts on life, creativity and sustainability.



Article | 04:57 min read

Portrait of

Matthew One Bailey


Copenhagen, Denmark

Still photography by

Frederik Kjeldgaard

“The most unique thing about this planet is the fact that as far as we know, it’s the only planet that can sustain our species. So we’re pretty lucky to have a place for us to live in this universe.”

My name is Matthew One Bailey. I’m 33 years old. I’m a performing artist and a teacher.

What was your childhood like?

My early childhood was filled with a lot of school and a lot of church. My school was connected to a church, and my father was a singer in a gospel band called The Sons of Promise. Before she became a nurse, my mother was the office manager at the school I went to. So I was there a lot.

I wanted to become a marine biologist and then I wanted to study law, but I made friends with the wrong crowd. And at 17, one of my friends was arrested in connection to an alleged murder. That split up our whole group of friends. And in what should have been my final year of high school, I went through a depression, and then I didn’t know what to do.

I just slowly spiraled downwards in terms of my motivation and enthusiasm for being at school at all. Then I dropped out. At the same time, I was invited to take classes at a dance studio. It gave me a purpose at the time when I felt purposeless. And it also gave me a way to express myself when words couldn’t. I think there was a lot of sadness.

I could process my feelings in those moments, through movement. I could feel something and interpret that through my body. I spent many hours alone in the studio not working on anything in particular, but just moving through the space.

There were also many moments where it felt like meditation, where you kind of just escape reality and all the things that are happening around you. You just quiet your mind and allow the energy to flow through you. And whatever happens physically, it is as it is and you don’t judge yourself.

Dance was my escape metaphorically and literally. It was a coping mechanism at first, but in the end it gave me a whole new direction in life.

So I’m going to give you a little challenge now. Please close your eyes and describe the process you go through when you start dancing.

When I begin to dance I feel a shift from the external to the internal. I start to feel my body in a different way. I can feel the surfaces of my body. I can feel how my body relates to the space around me. I feel my muscles stretching against the bones and joints.

Sometimes I will think of where the movement is being initiated from and then feel how the rest of my body reacts and follows that initiation. Then I allow the echo of that movement to happen until it stops. So it’s this constant. It’s like yelling into a dark space, hearing it echo and then yelling again just before the echo dies and then yelling again and then yelling again and then feeling the reverberation of that echo follow and flow through my body.

And even though I can sense the whole world around me and I can feel my body in relation to the space around me, I am not there. It’s like I disappear. My personality disappears, and I’m just a body and energy moving through space and reacting to choices and the ripples of those choices.

What makes you happy?

What makes me happy and feel calm is a sense of stability and balance and peace in regards to my life situation and relationships with other people. There are some moments in life where, you know, excitement brings me happiness. But in general, peace is what makes me most happy. Peace and balance.

What is your relationship to nature?

I love nature. I’ve been outside my entire life running through the woods. I had a wild imagination, so I could entertain myself in the forest for hours and hours.

I also love the beach. I have a deep fear and respect for the ocean.I think nature is super dangerous and powerful. I have a deep love and respect and curiosity for our environment as a whole.

In nature you feel a lot more carefree. You can lose yourself, lose sense of your responsibilities, because you are in what seems like infinite environment.

What is sustainability for you?

Sustainability is balance. It’s when you use what can be replenished, where you don’t over-consume, and where everyone has access to all of the resources that are necessary for them to consume what they need and replenish what is necessary.

What makes this planet unique?

It is the perfect environment for us to exist in at this point. It’s an environment that has more than enough resources for all of us.

Another thing that is really beautiful about the planet is the fact that it is an finite environment, so we do have to be aware and conscious of how we use, and how much we use, because the balance can be thrown off quite easily with the technologies we have. But just in general, the fact that we can sustain life here is pretty unique.

Regarding the planet, what do you fear the most?

I fear that the world that we leave behind is not going to be able to provide the life that we’ve been able to enjoy at this point in time.

It’s scary for me to think that our children may have to suffer through some pretty incredible disasters because of the choices that we’ve made. And the scary thing is, that it’s already happening.

If these are the storms and fires that we’re experiencing now, and if we look at the time and how things have accelerated in the last decade, it’s insane. Everything we can do to start to reduce our impact and slow things down is worth doing.

What can we do as individuals to save the planet?

We already have so much knowledge, information and technology available to change our lifestyles to do what’s necessary to slow things down. But I think that we as human beings are stubborn and we want things as we want them, and we like our habits. We like our cycles.

The information is out there about eating meat and its effects on agriculture, the environment, and also within our own bodies. The consumption of meat on a daily basis is scientifically proven not to be good for our systems.
But we enjoy things and we like to continue to consume the things that we enjoy. And I think that the one thing that would help us out in a big way is if we could all change our minds about the value of our lives without the luxuries that we’ve grown accustomed to.

Our world is run through economies. And that being said, we as consumers have the power to influence economies by what we choose to invest in. When you make a purchase, you’re investing in a specific area of the economy and by continuing to invest in businesses that do not practice sustainably it’s that much easier for their poor practices to continue.

I think that it’s a fantasy to think that we can continue to buy a new outfit every weekend or mangoes throughout the year for the rest of human existence without there being a negative effect on our environment.

It’s the same with fast fashion and the production of clothing all year round. It’s not necessary, and I think that many people are choosing not to buy. And of course, when the demand decreases, then they produce less. So we speak with our wallets. We can invest in those projects that are going to help to move us towards balance like choosing local agriculture or shopping at local vintage shops or just sourcing local work.

If you only had one year to live what would you do?

If I had one more year to live I would connect with as many people that I could. I would spend time with loved ones, friends and family. And I would have as many incredible experiences as possible. And if I had the opportunity to go to outer space and see the planet, that would be the final cherry on top, really. Just to get that perspective of all of us, just as one spot, would be incredible.