Posts Tagged ‘Vik Muniz’


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Brazilian-born, New York-based artist Vik Muniz has set up his latest project in Rio de Janeiro, timed with Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Appropriately entitled Landscape, Muniz’ new work recreates Rio (the global capital of debate around the environment) entirely out of trash. You probably remember Muniz from the incredible documentary Waste Land.


Photo via the AP

As one whose day job revolves around international development, I was somewhat relieved not to have to go to Rio this week and participate in the organized chaos of assessing the state of sustainable development around the world. Women’s rights, my area of focus, don’t get much prominence on the agenda and I have many dutiful colleagues who trooped down to Latin America to remind world leaders that, as a Guatemalan colleague put it recently, “we can’t achieve sustainable development if women’s lives are unsustainable.”

Anyway, that is to say I was feeling pretty jaded and exhausted by the mere thought of all the hustle and bustle and tedious bureaucracy orbiting around a meeting of this size and pomp. Until I read about this new Vik Muniz endeavor. Suddenly, I’m jealous of all the activists and diplomats packed into conference rooms and pouring over the past twenty years of progress (or lack thereof) on issues of sustainability.  Those bastards get to slip out and visit amazing trash art projects! I wonder what other creative efforts environmentally-minded artists have cooked up for this occasion.

Are you in Rio? Send updates and photos, please!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wooster Collective posted this Familia Gangsters video yesterday. It features the work of graffiti artist Mundano who uses the wagons of cartadores (pickers of recyclable materials) as canvases for his political murals.

For a closer look at this ongoing series, check out this flickr album.

And if you haven’t yet, please immediately buy, rent or stream the documentary Waste Land. It chronicles another trash-themed Brazilian art project in which photographer Vik Muniz enlisted cartadores to help create massive portraits of themselves using recyclables picked from a gigantic dump, then sold prints to profit their workers’ collective.

Waste Land, the documentary

Friday, April 1, 2011

I have wanted to see Waste Land — Lucy Walker‘s documentary about Brooklyn-based Brazilian artist Vik Muniz and the huge trash portraits he created outside of Rio with help from local cartadores — for a while now. Somehow, I missed two or three chances to do so while the film screened in New York. Now, though, we all have another chance. Waste Land premiers on the PBS series Independent Lens on April 19th (check local listings). Or you can rent or stream it from Netflix here.

I got an advance review copy a while back and this past week had my friend Lisa over to watch it with me. Lisa is a sociologist who has lived for several years in India researching waste and water issues, which means she has spent a lot of time in dumps and with trash pickers (more on that to come in future posts).

I don’t want to belabor the review here. Short version: see this film. It made me cry. Twice. And I am not someone who cries easily.

The medium-length version: The storyline of Waste Land follows Muniz (via some slightly staged seeming Skype calls) setting up his project and getting others to help him execute his vision: to build large scale portraits of trash pickers using the trash they pick and getting those pickers to help him do it. Most of the film takes place outside of Rio at one of the world’s largest dump sites where you get to know an extremely compelling cast of characters who live and work there including a heartbreakingly young mother and the incredibly charismatic president of the cartadores association, which serves as a labor union and coop for the pickers.

Some interesting things I learned:

  • One, cartadores aren’t trash pickers. They are recyclable materials pickers.
  • Two, plastic is more lucrative to pick than glass according to the cartadores.
  • Three, Vik Muniz’ breakout show was a series of portraits called Sugar Children for which he created images of the children of sugar plantation workers out of sugar.

As an aside, during post-viewing Googleing, I found this story and video on Brazilian picker associations collecting used veggie oil.

Lucy Walker is also the filmmaker behind The Devil’s Playground, a fascinating look at Amish adolescence, which answered many of the burning questions I accumulated about the simple life during my teen years in Central PA. Definitely also worth seeing.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

More on the catadores of Brazil in the Times today as part of this profile of trash artist Vik Muniz—whose amazing trash portraiture is featured in the film Waste Land (which I am still DYING to see).

The trash art of Vik Muniz

Thanks for the tip, Tony.

Trash at Sundance

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Picks for Sundance Twentyten have been announced and among the many independent films set to be shown, this entry in the World Cinema Documentary category caught our eye:

Waste Land » (United Kingdom) Director Lucy Walker (“Blind Sight”) chronicles what happens when art star Vik Muniz collaborates with trash pickers in Rio de Janeiro’s landfill, the world’s largest.

Couldn’t find much on the project online, but hopes are high considering Vik Muniz‘ past work with trash.

And Lucy Walker’s amazing work on past documentaries, which you should look up immediately if you haven’t already seen them.

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