Making art from trash – Vik Muniz's meditation on consumer culture

Making art from trash – Vik Muniz's meditation on consumer culture

Brazilian-born, New York-based artist Vik Muniz is turning Rio's garbage into a portrait of his city in his New Landscape project, a meditation on the ever-quickening pace of consumer culture that he is creating on the margins of the United Nations Rio+20 conference on sustainable development.

His idea is to create a giant collage out of trash and then take an overhead photograph of it, creating a work so realistic it looks like a photograph of Rio's Guanabara Bay and its surrounds, not a photo of garbage. Visitors carrying trash place their contributions on a projected image of the Bay taken by Muniz and his assistants shift around their contributions and add other bits of trash according to his instructions.

“We have a chance to meditate on our place in nature by making the representation a symbol of that place from within,” Muniz said. “It may not solve all the problems but it puts you in a state to meditate on our own decisions.”

Muniz has worked with trash before and is best known for his portraits of garbage pickers at a Rio de Janeiro landfill, a project that was chronicled in the 2010 documentary Wasteland.
Images: Muniz's projected image of Guanabara Bay (top) and people adding trash to his landscape (bottom)