Waste Land

Waste Land is a documentary about an innovative artist Vik Muniz, who uses garbage material to create art. Muniz traveled to Rio de Jeniero, Brazil to carry out his project in the world’s largest landfill Jardim Gramacho. Muniz photographed some of the pickers at the landfill, and then was able to project huge blown up versions of the photographs on the concrete floor inside a building. The pickers used trash that they gathered earlier to recreate their portraits on the photographs. Muniz photographed the final creations and put them on canvases for an art exhibition and an art auction. Muniz brought new perspectives to these pickers. After the pickers created this art, they gained new perspectives on life, by realizing that they did not have stay and pick garbage for the rest of their life. In this way, Muniz was able to change their outlook on life and show that they could escape the landfill. The pickers were able give Muniz satisfaction with the artwork they both created, he felt that improving these people’s lives was a rewarding experience. The groups in this documentary were Association of Pickers Jardim Gramacho (group thats represents the pickers of the landfill and their legal rights), the museum of modern art in Rio de Janeiro, and Muniz and his assistant. One of the systems that I observed in this documentary was poverty. The poor in Brazil are stuck in a cycle of poverty and have no way out. This extreme poverty is shown when Muniz visits the pickers’ homes, who live in favelas (slums).  Muniz project subverts this system of poverty by showing some of the pickers a new way of life and that they can break away from this cycle and by providing them with their artwork’s profits. However, I would argue that Muniz’s project also supports the system of poverty because he improves the lives of only some of the pickers, while the pickers who are not picked are still left behind in poverty. While Muniz had good intentions with his project there are many problems with this project. The ability to change someone’s perspective  on life should not be taken lightly, and I feel that this is something that Muniz did not realize or consider enough. If these selected pickers find themselves out of money and they have to go back to working at other jobs similar to their job at the landfill (since it shut down) they will probably be more unhappy then they would have been without Muniz’s project changing their life. Also I think this project probably created some animosity between the pickers who were selected for the project and the ones who were not. The long term implications are that the pickers were able to improve their lives with the proceeds of their artwork, and Muniz used funding to open a learning center for the pickers, since the landfill was shut down.


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