Recently at Agnes Scott College, Programming Board showed a film titled, Waste Land featuring sculptor turned photographer Vik Muniz. Muniz’s work has been shown at the MOMA and around the world, and he is mostly known for using unlikely materials , such as chocolate syrup, sugar, and garbage to create his works. Many of his works reference famous artworks, such as The Death of Murat by David, The Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci, and La Japonaise by Monet. Muniz is able to master any style through the use of unconventional materials.
The film Waste Land focuses on the artist’s work with recyclable materials. He wanted to work with the materials that people use every day, and more specifically, the materials average people throw away every day. He also wished to return to his home community of Sao Paolo, Brazil to stimulate the local economy. But, his journey led him to the outskirts of Rio de Janiero, to the largest garbage dump in the world, Jardim Gramacho. There he discovered the pickers, the local, employed individuals who collect recyclable materials from the garbage dump. For Muniz, the location provided the perfect means, the people and the material, to challenge classicism through his art. The decision was formalized: all the proceeds of the photographic series he created while in Rio would go to the pickers and their association for recycling rights.
The film continued to be an emotional montage of the individuals who live and work in the area of Jardim Gramacho. First, Muniz hired the pickers to pick up certain kinds of recyclable material to use in his newest art project. After Muniz made portraits of individual pickers, he projected them on to a large scale canvas and had the pickers place recyclable materials on the canvas, while he directed the whole process. The final results were monumental. Muniz then took photographs of the monumental canvases and sold them at auction. One of the pickers and the leader of the President of ACAMJG (the Association of Recycling Pickers of Jardim Gramacho) Sebastiao Carlos dos Santos accompanied Muniz to London, where Sebastiao’s portrait was sold for $50,000.
Overall this film proved to be a delightful mixture of humanitarianism and inspiring art. Waste Land is a must-see for those who love films about art or individuals who have truly made a difference in the world.
For more information on Muniz at the MOMA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=et5XDNYbLGg