Saturday, January 29, 2011

Feature: Waste Land, Vik Muniz, and consciousness

(Potential spoiler alert!) There has been much written about trash and waste, and it seems like there are several documentaries and books about this issue. I have been almost saturated with thinking about trash, with my creativity being challenged day by day in trying to write about trash from different perspectives. I am not the most creative person out there. But other people are much more creative, and have different backgrounds that lends them different ways of viewing the exact thing I have been thinking about now for ten months (ten months today!). It is always wonderful to come across these thoughts, visions and projects, and I came across one just a couple weekends ago.

Matt and I made it to The Detroit Institute of Arts for the Detroit Film Theatre, where they show beautiful movies, documentaries, and shorts, on the 16th of January. What caught my eye was a screening of the documentary Waste Land, which is about an art project (turned out to be way more than art) by Vik Muniz on the people how pick through trash at one of the world's largest landfills to collect recyclables that can be sold. Here's a synopsis from the website:

"Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores”—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage..."

Vik's intentions are clear - he wants to change people's lives with the objects they are surrounded with on a daily basis. There is no better group of people to work with than those that work at a landfill. As I've mentioned previously (here, here and here), trash is visceral and tangible, so much so that we don't want to be around it, although some people are around it continuously. Some people are around it so much so that they are desensitised to it, just like people that work at one of the world's largest landfills, where objects and discards of humanity flow in like an unabated wave. Vik initially went into the project thinking it was just going to be just that, an art project - as a photographer, he was going to make multimedia photographs of the workers, with recyclables in the trash defining the human features of his subjects. He formed connections with some of the workers there (extremely thoughtful people), and had them work on their own photographs. Please click here and go to "Pictures of Garbage (2009)" to see their incredible work.

What ended up happening changed both Vik and the workers:

"However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives. Director Lucy Walker (DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND, BLINDSIGHT, COUNTDOWN TO ZERO) has great access to the entire process and, in the end, offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit." 

I am not going to talk much about the movie, because you should really just watch it (and you can read about it here), but what Vik essentially did was raising into consciousness, at a level higher than visibility, the objects and problems that surround us. This is indeed what the message of this blog so far has been: raise into consciousness and awareness the knowledge and problems that our world is facing, and think about how this problem is just another manifestation of deeper issues - disrespect for Earth and disrespect for people, present and future.

1 comment:

  1. Happy 10 month Anniversary :)

    (The next time you go to the DIA, take me with you!)