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From Junk to Treasure


“The Gypsy Magna–Pictures of Garbage”  Photograph by Vik Muniz, courtesy of Vik Muniz Studio

Not one for marking time, New Year is a celebration that doesn’t excite me yet I believe in taking stock and reflecting upon my behaviour, beliefs, and plans for the future.

So when SBS television screened the film Waste Land about people who trawl mountains of rubbish for recycled material in order to make a living at Jardim Gramacho, one of the world’s largest landfills, it made me reflect about how we treat our world and each other.  I was also humbled and inspired.

Vik Muniz, a world famous Brazilian artist, photographed some of the workers at Jardim Gramacho and then turned his photographs into large scale art by joining the workers to enhance their images with layered recycled material to emphasise line, shadow, texture and colour.  The finished works were transformative and arresting and exhibited in Pictures of Garbage exhibition to raise money to help the workers to have  a better standard of life.  When the workers viewed the artwork of themselves they were moved to tears for it transgressed their hard working life surrounded by rotting mess into a feeling of pride and integrity and casting light on their physical beauty.

It was moving to see the shameful waste of affluent life made into something worthwhile by those who felt worthless.  Personally, I loved the use of material items, that hold little value in our materialistic lives, contribute to a work of love as achieved by Vik Muniz and the recyclers, and to see the effect of working creatively with our hands in order to produce a work of love, that begets love, that spreads love.   The workers approach to enhancing their portraits was nearly sacred, intrepid, a silent homage to themselves; the same approach to have when making shrouds.

Happy new year and best wishes for 2013


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