Rubbish Wednesday

Recycling Junk as Art Form
And Tool for Social Change

They say, one man’s garbage is another’s million-dollar art show, but we say, don’t believe it for a minute. We produce so much junk already that if some artist or visionary decides to recycle it by packing and selling back to its source, more power for them.
We, for ones, are not about to enjoy the prospect of waking up submerged in a sea of plastic cups and wrapping paper and, well, you got the picture.
That’s probably one of the reasons why Brazilian artist Vik Muniz came up with Waste Land, a film about the catadores, self-appointed recyclable material pickers at the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, in the outskirts of Rio.
The film is a series of visual panels, moving photographs of members of the community that lives off the landfill, sometimes enacting famous paintings, such as the Jacques-Louis David 1793, Death of Marat.
The Italian Dario Tironi, on the other hand, uses old toys, discarded computer components and broken calculators to compose his own re-reading of everyday objects no longer fit for their original purpose.
He’s not alone, it must be noted, as Robert Bradford and Leo Sewell also use toys and junk glued together in their art. What they all have in common is that their art gives us a chance to appreciate a far from unusual object with fresher eyes.
And then there’s the plainly prosaic use of site-specific garbage, dutifully packaged and sold in jewel boxes to perhaps become a step or two beyond mere theme for a dinner conversation. A collectible item, if you ask the author of such idea.
That would be Justin Gignac and his Garbage NYC project. Using his background in advertising he proved once more that how you package something sometimes out values whatever it is that’s inside it. How much more Marshall McLuhan can this be?
And he can show you proof of the 1,300 or so limited-edition, New York City garbage-stuffed plastic sealed cubes he’s already sold and even where in the world they went, through a Google world map.
In fact, if it’s not a novel idea, it does prove several points far beyond the ‘if you build it, they’ll buy it’ motto. What looks like a fancy paperweight, at closer examination, can reveal a lot of how we live and, specially, what we usually discard daily in order to live circa 2011. A plateful for an anthropologist of the future, that’s for sure.
One of the things such projects illustrate is the transformative power of recycling, whether you’re seriously considering reducing the carbon footprint of your existence, you’ve decided to engage your artistic expression into a tool for social change, or are simply sitting pretty within the right kind of income bracket.
However you go about it, it’s entirely up to you, of course. It may be a dirty and smelly job, but someone will definitely have to tackle it.

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