Jardim Gramacho; One of the biggest dumps in the world, as of 2012 it is closed. The conditions people had to work in were unbearable, social art project ”Pictures of Garbage” gave them a face.
As a young man Vic Muniz was shot in the leg while trying to break up a fight. He decided to move to New York city where he now lives and works as an renowned artist. Muniz was born into a working class family in Sao Paulo, Brazil back in 1961. He has established a well-known reputation over the years, he created a replica of the famous Mona Lisa made from peanut butter and made a series of portraits featuring smiley children made out of sugar. These social art projects launched his career and have been exhibited worldwide. Although Muniz is away from his country of origin, Brazil still has a special place in his heart. He wanted to give something back to the people and decided to go to the world’s biggest garbage dump in Rio de Janeiro called Jardim Garmacho also known as Waste Land.
”Pictures of Garbage”
Muniz his work is solely made out of garbage however there is more to his artwork than meets the eye. Back in 2008 Muniz takes a trip to Jardim Garmacho where he meets the catadores –or garbage pickers. The catadores make a living by picking valuable recyclable materials from the garbage thrown away by the more fortunates than themselves in Brazil. Initially Muniz just wanted to paint the catadores with garbage however when he saw how optimistic these low paid collectors were the project became a collaboration.They had to learn about Muniz his work and became proper his project assistants.
The catadores who work under dangerous circumstances play a crucial role in repairing the results of the careless junk disposal in Rio de Janeiro. Muniz likes to refer to these people as survivors, they are not beaten and broken although they are at the other end of consumer culture.
On the left picture you will see a portrait of Tiao. He has been working at Jardim Garmacho for over 5 years and has made a great difference in the community with his medical clinic and recycle centre. For this piece, Tiao impersonates the work of Jacques-Louis David called ”Death of Marat”. On the right picture you will see Irma, she makes daily lunches for the catadores made from the fresh ingredients she finds in the dump.
Social art Portrait of Tiao Social art Portrait of Irma
”I grew up poor, now I have I have reached the point where I want to give back”. -Vic Muniz. And that is what he does Muniz auctions his work at Phillip Purry in London. One of his portraits sells for around 50,000 dollar and Muniz returns back to Jardim Gramacho to donate all the profit he made with selling the pictures of this social art project. It is the first time the catadores actually feel that their lives matter to the outside world.
Lucy Walker made an inspiring documentary called ”Waste Land”. In this documentary you can witness the daily struggles of the catadores and see every perspective of Jardim Gramacho.