Wasteland Review

After watching the Documentary ‘wasteland’ I found it very interesting and strong. For me it’s important that art has a purpose. Vic Muniz used his recognition to help create and sell art to benefit those involved in the Association of Recycling Pickers of Jardim Gramacho. I believe the people in the documentary were depicted well. They were not shown just as poor people but as they were, pickers of recyclable materials. To me that was strong because they owned who they were and where they were from especially in the face of international attention coming from the art community.

To me the filmmakers where trying to ‘help’ the pickers not in a ‘I’m a rich westerner and you are not so I can clearly help you way’ but in a way that brought attention to the work they do with the aim of  giving proceeds to them from the selling of the art work. So I believe in that sense they did succeed.

The documentary shows how powerful art can be. It’s work like Vic Muniz, ‘Garbage’ that made me an artist to begin with.Image It also says art isn’t something that just sits on a pedestal and gets admired by a certain people. It can be engaging with all peoples and isn’t confined anymore.

To ask the question did people benefit from the project is for me tough to answer. I don’t know where those people are now or how their lives are. To me it depends on the individual whether it has or not and it is to them to say yes or no. I can say to take a picker to London and show a different life and ‘what could be’ can be mind altering stuff. It can drive people to make their own opportunities if any are there but it can also mess some people up because they have to return to the landfill and continue where they left off.

It does be asked, are artist taking advantage of vulnerable people to benefit themselves? That is an ethical question that does get talked about all the time. There is no answer to it; it is based on the artist involved. Then a return question is: is it OK to take advantage of vulnerable people when you have their needs center to your project?

I do suppose if you engage for a long time with these ‘vulnerable people’ empower them and collaborate then to me that seems OK  That’s exactly what Vic Muniz done with the pickers. He engaged with them and produced work after a length of time. He also spent time at the landfill which was significant.

Now I wonder does Vic Muniz still engage with these people or has he moved on? That raises important things. The saying ‘Parachute Artist’, they are artist who drop into communities and leave as quickly as they got there. At what point does a project end especially when more than one person is involved.

It seems art raises a lot more questions than it can answer but that’s usually how it goes when trying to answer some of life’s difficult questions like equality.

By Jonathan Myers