Artist Feature, vol. 3
If you haven’t yet heard, this Brazilian native turned world-renowned visual artist went to one of the largest dumpsters in the world (Jardim Gramacho outside of Rio de Janeiro) to create portraits of the “catadores”. The catadores are the individuals who work at the site separating recyclable materials from general waste. This 2011 Oscar nominated documentary entitled “Wasteland” shows Vik and his colleagues throughout the course of a year getting to know each of these characters and their lives as he develops an “image” for the project.
He decides to depict each of them in a series called “Pictures of Garbage” through iconic images of art history such as Jacques-Louis David’s 1793 “The Death of Marat” for Marat (Sebastiao), Pablo Picasso’s 1904 “Woman Ironing” for “Woman Ironing (Isis)” and Atlas, the Titan who held up the world for “Atlas (Carla0)”. This remaking of iconic images has of course been done before. Vik’s originality here lies, as in most of his work, in his choice of medium and context. He photographs these images then projects them from say 40 feet in the air down to the ground. He and the catadores then arrange hundreds of objects found in the landfill to recreate the image out of pure waste. This final sculptural piece is photographed and becomes the final image.
The work is thought provoking and inspiring as his process changes the way we think art is created and achieved. But truly the most impactful aspect of the documentary is the dignity and relentless spirit of the catadores Vik encounters and how this inspires his work and allows for a victorious finale that brings hope and change to the desolate circumstances of life in Jardim Gramacho and to the dreamers, like me, who dream of a better world.