Waste Land
2011/12/08
By : Cynthia La Grou
Waste Land is #2 in the Compathos Film with Social Impact Series on September 23, at the HUB San Francisco, with special guest speaker, Ann Wizer, founder of the XS Project. The Hub a place-based and global network of entrepreneurs, freelance professionals, artists, funders, students, mentors, community leaders - a habitat for innovators. Members come to The Hub to collaborate, access market opportunities and capital, build community, and scale ideas for social and environmental change.

Through this 2010 multi-award winning documentary, we are taken on a surreal journey into a world we can scarcely imagine - yet into a world that is becoming more common that we think. We follow the journey of artist Vik Muniz to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro where he photographs the forgotten people (estimated 3,000 to 5,000) or "catadores" who are self-designated pickers of recyclable materials.

The story draws us into the lives of the pickers as Muniz takes their photos, some inspired by famous paintings, and enlarges the photos together with debris across a large studio floor, to create stunning compositions. Suddenly trash is transformed into treasure and value is placed on all that has been marginalized and discarded as the journey leads us to prestigious art auction houses in London. Muniz art commands high prices and he sells the work to benefit the Garbage Pickers Association which was founded by Tiao, to improve the lives of his fellow catadores. (Inspired by political texts he found in the waste, Tieo convinced his co workers that forming an organization could make a difference.)

Through his journey we discover beauty and hope amidst hardship and the dignity of the human spirit. Anything but formulaic, this films subject matter is not one you will soon forget. Though issues of importance are present, the themes are transcendent and poetic, causing us to consider the transformative power of visionary art and sacrificial giving.

About the art and the artists:
Brazilian-born, Brooklyn based illusionist and innovator Vik Muniz lives for the moment when all of our fixed preconceptions fail us and we are forced to enter a dialogue with the world we inhabit. In this moment, we are confronted with the chaos that is otherwise hidden from view. It is precisely through his art work (both in product and process) that Muniz harnesses the generative possibility of chaos.

Similar to dumpster diving and freeganism, Vik Muniz's project "Pictures of Garbage" is invested in the excavation of garbage. However, a key distinction is that his particular exploration moves beyond question of utility - he isn't simply interested in finding and salvaging the secret treasures within trash heaps but rather in using garbage as an art medium. "The beautiful thing about garbage is that it's negative; it's something that you don't use anymore; it's what you don't want to see," says Muniz. "So, if you are a visual artist, it becomes a very interesting material to work with because it's the most nonvisual of materials. You are working with something that you usually try to hide."

Filmmaker Lucy Walker has written and directed some of the most influential documentaries of the past 10 years. Most recently, she wrote and directed Countdown to Zero, a documentary that traces the history of the atomic bomb and reveals the real possibility of a nuclear disaster. Her other films include Blindsight, a documentary that follows the emotional journey of six blind Tibetan teenagers who climb Mt. Everest and Devil's Playground which examines the struggles of Amish teenagers during their period of experimentation known as Rumspringa.

About our special Guest Speaker - environmental activist, artist and founder of XS Project - Ann Wizer

Ann Wizer, an incredible environmental activist artist,is working with the medium of garbage as a way to build awareness concerning consumption and waste, environmental degradation and to encourage poverty reduction. Her elegant creations range from performance art, sculpture, functional furniture, light fixtures, costumes, and jewelry to her current collection of multi-purpose bags, laptop sleeves and laundry bins featured in her XS product line.
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