Globe, United Kingdom

From trash to treasure

The healing power of art is one that is often forgotten or overlooked; oft remembered is the talent of the artist, the style of the painting, but, perhaps, what matters most is the way artists and their works are able to connect with the community, and how are has the power to transform people.

This is the side of art explored in Lucy Walker’s multi-award winning documentary Waste Land, which is to be screened 20th March at 4 p.m. by the Frontline Club.  The documentary follows renowned Brazilian artist Vik Muniz from his home in Brooklyn back to Brazil. The artist had intended to go to the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, in order to photograph a group of “catadores,” or garbage pickers who collect recyclable materials from the dump.

Muniz was then going to paint the catedores using garbage, but he was so effected by the character of each person he came into contact with he was soon inspired to embark on a new project, a collaboration with the catedores in which they worked together to create huge images of themselves with the garbage they collect. Muniz, who is known for using a variety of materials to create photographic images, like dirt, diamonds, sugar, string, chocolate syrup and garbage, which he is able to turn into bold and sometimes deceiving images.

His art is a combination of photojournalism and art history, and he was able to use these skills in order to connect with the catedores, who have been forced, one way or another, to come to the dump and pick recyclable materials. The work is monotonous and hard, and many women are forced to work in the dump as an alternative to prostitution.

The catedores are not just labourers; they are individuals whose unique tastes and talents come through in the documentary, and whose spirits are lifted and transformed by the power of art with help from Muniz. The documentary was filmed over a span of three years and follow Muniz from the beginning of his travel through to the powerful transformation the catedores experience when they are able to cast their own images in the garbage they collect.

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