Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Waste Land

 I had the pleasure of viewing the documentary called "Waste Land" by Vik Muniz and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It brought tears to my eyes and emotionally it hit me straight thru the heart. This captivating film brings you face to face with garbage pickers of the largest landfill in the world,  which is called Jardim Gramacho. It is located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

In Rio, there is an upper class society of people, where most tourists visit every day. Then there is the lower class society, which is known to be extremely dangerous and no tourist should step foot there. Brazil has always had some serious problems with crime. With an average of 28 homicides per 100,000 residents, muggings, robberies, kidnappings, and gang violence are common.

Police brutality and corruption are widespread. Poverty in Brazil is most visually represented by the various Favela's. The dreadful cocaine drug has directly affected the Favelas, which are usually ruled by the drug lords. Regular shoot-outs between drug traffickers and police lead to extremely high murder rates.

Vik Muniz was born into a working-class family in Sao Paulo, Brazil. As a young man he was shot in the leg whilst trying to break up a fight. He received compensation for his injuries and used this money to fund a trip to New York City, where he has lived and worked since the late 1980s. He began his career as a sculptor but gradually became more interested in photographic reproductions of his work, eventually turning his attention exclusively to photography. He incorporates a multiplicity of unlikely materials into this photographic process.Vik has used dirt, diamonds, sugar, string, chocolate syrup and garbage to create bold, witty and often deceiving images drawn from the pages of photojournalism and art history. His work has been met with both commercial success and critical acclaim, and has been exhibited worldwide. His solo show at MAM in Rio de Janeiro was second only to Picasso in attendance records.
It was here that Vik first exhibited his “Pictures of Garbage Series” in Brazil. 

Thru this film, you are able to view just a small  piece of their life. You learn their hardships, and the trials and tribulations that the lower class people of Brazil has had to endure for years. It is truly beautiful what this amazing artist was able to grasp in this film.Your heart will be touched by the characters of this film. They are instantly lovable and intelligent.

Born in Jardim Gramacho, where Waste Land is located, Tião started his relationship with the trash when he was only 11 years old. He would go to Jardim Gramacho everyday to take lunch to his mother who was a picker. Some few years later he started picking recyclable material too and followed the steps of his mother, who had founded the Copergramacho, an association to sell the recyclable material. He eventually became vice-president of Copergramacho, and in 2006 founded the ACAMJG (Association of Pickers of Jardim Gramacho) and is still the President nowadays.  A natural leader, Tiaos life began to change when he found the book “Prince,” by Machiavelli, in the trash and read it. The desire to become a leader aroused. Tiao’s life would take a huge turn when he met Vik Muniz during the filming of Waste Land. 


 It was his photograph that was chosen to be auctioned in London, it sold  for $50,000! Tiao posed as Jacques-louis david’s “The Death of Marat.” He was taken to the actual auction in London, the first time leaving the wastelands. It was an emotional scene when Tiao learned how much the piece sold for.  The proceeds of the sale were taken  back to ACAMJG. 

Here are some of the other amazing installations. Each one is amazing and captures the soul of the catadore. You can learn more about the characters of the film and find out their current status updates. Each of their installations were sold for over $10k. For most of them, that was enough money to change their lives forever.  :)

An honorable mention goes here. 
Valter, was the landfill’s elder statesmen. He was a recycling guru and resident bard who delights in rhymes and morals. Quite a whimsical character he was. He passed away shortly after the making of this film. I felt obligated to include his picture along with his story on this post.

I am actually a huge fan of recyclable art. I have dipped my feet into this world, turning junk into pleasurable art.  My sister actually started a company called Upcycled Earth, in which she turns junk into treasure. You may view some of her items here: http://upcycledearth.com.

We are participating again in this year's Art All Night Event, and are making an art installation with all recyclables. http://www.artworkstrenton.org/

 It is just a beautiful thing to see the effect of making artwork from what normally goes to a landfill to sit for billions of years. We need to take more caution as to what we are disposing of. Just because we don't see it anymore doesn't mean it magically disappear.

We are not pickers of garbage; we are pickers of recyclable materials,Tião


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