But I was also inspired because this film shows how artists can make real changes in the world. I think in our society there is a prevailing belief that "art" can't make real changes in society anymore. Our society has become demoralized on so many levels Our world has become so cynical and narrow that not many people feel a need to make social change no matter how small a change it might be. From my view point society as a whole thinks "What's the use?".
Art is power. Artists can be powerful. Remember Picasso's "Guernica"?
Vik Muniz decision to go to Brazil and complete this project caused the Brazilian government to use "Waste Land" as a promotional tool to make people aware of recycling. The attention Vik Muniz's art received in Brazil made society "see" the catadores and some of the social stigma has been lifted from them. One action can change the world and artists in all the arts can become catalysts for change.
Maybe it's naive on my part to think art can be so powerful. Watch the film. Watch a man called Tiao and see what one artist did for him and his community.
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I watched a documentary this evening called "Waste Lands". It is the story about a project a Brazilian Artist named Vik Muniz worked on over a period of three years that centers on the catodores (garbage pickers) who work in Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest garbage dump, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. He photographed the catodores at their work which is basically picking through huge mountains of garbage to find recyclable materials. The catadores are very poor people who have no employment and resort to picking through garbage to make their living. Despite their miserable working conditions they are very honorable people who do not want to resort to prostitution or a life of drugs in order to survive.
Vik Muniz uses unconventional materials in his art and in this project he uses recyclable materials to make portraits of the catadores with their help. This collaboration leads to real changes in the catadores lives when Vik decides to use the proceeds from the sale of the art work to aid the community that has formed around the catadores.
For me personally, this film directed by Lucy Walker, touched me on a very deep level. I cried through parts of this film as I witnessed the plight of these poor people who stay just one step ahead of homelessness and starvation.
Ghost / Good for You
by Gail Mansel
Materials: Altered magazine pages on archival paper, ink, acrylic gloss medium as glue and sealer.
Blog - Invisible Art
When I was a young girl I saw a movie called "The Invisible Man". That little girl who watched that movie thought it would be grand to be invisible. Who wouldn't love it! The thrill of not being seen meant I could do anything I wanted to do. I could play on the swings, like a ghost. A little ghost girl who could hide in corners and watch the secret world of people without ever being noticed.
As I grew older I realized what it means to be truly invisible and I have subjected my art to this invisibility. I tend to be bitter about certain areas of society but I believe what I see. I rely on my eyes. Being invisible myself, I notice other invisible people and things in our society.
Society, that big heaving organism that we all move through each and every day of our lives like it or not, loves bling, youth, money, shiny cars and huge homes with every amenity. I reflect on "Life Styles of the Rich and Famous", the "National Enquirer", "People" magazine, "Sports Illustrated", and various get rich and be happy schemes from the movie "The Secret" all the way to Youtube infomercials. The "Personal Wealth" generation is every generation that ever passed over the surface of this earth. I wonder what kind of shallow world I live in where real issues are glossed over and effectively pushed to the extreme back-burner of human consciousness.
Even in art, Jeff Koon's big shiny balloon dog and over-blown knick-knacks make modern people look like a bunch of shallow buffoons who are scared to have a thinking, critical bone in their bodies toward what "High" art shoves in their face as "art". Tracy Emin's "My Bed" is my bed, too. Nothing there to make my mind work. It's all mundane and makes me feel like I need a shower. It's like those face book comments of " I made a cup of coffee and watched "Today" this morning." I don't need to know the every day details of every day life to know I connect to every other person who ever lived. We are simply boring in the details.
I see a very different society from Jeff Koons satirical and mocking society where everything shiny and happy is idolized or Tracy Emin's clever sneer at mundane life. I see what's invisible because I am invisible too.
I see the homeless, ragged man who sleeps on the porch of an abandoned house in freezing temperatures. Neighbors are afraid to approach him because they don't know if he's crazy or not so they call the police to come get him. This is a true conversation I overheard between two poor women.
" Well, at least he'll have a warm place to sleep for a night."
" I would have given him a blanket if I had one." One woman said.
The conversation of invisible people is often filled with injustice and resignation. Reality as vicious circle.
I see the minimum wage mom standing on the corner of a parking lot asking for money because she doesn't make enough to support her kids. People in fancy SUVs pass her by without a glance. I dig a dollar out of my purse to give to her. I'm unemployed. Invisible people always know poverty all the time.
I see the plastic bottles, scraps of metal, broken glass under an overpass and its' potential as pieces in an art work. Trash is an invisible thing in that not many people see its' potential as a beautiful raw material for art. It's thrown away to fill mountainous landfills or litter roadsides. Most of it will never rot. It lies there releasing its chemicals into the soil to poison an already poisoned land. It is made invisible, covered by dirt and grass grows over it. Buried just like people.
I see a dead cat in the road and wonder if anybody ever petted it, loved it, fed it or realized that it had feelings. It is never buried, just left there for the vultures and crows. Animals that are not good for food or pets or entertainment are considered worthless in our society. Measures are never taken to keep their wild populations under control so they just die. Every one views the old lady with 50 cats as mad as a hatter and she says she would save them all if she could. There's no dignity in being non-human.
I see the old woman in the grocery store counting her money and setting a can of off-brand soup back on the shelf. Her grocery basket looks woefully empty and even more so now.
These are invisible entities; they are like ghosts or on the same plain as those who have passed because society as a whole is not "sensitive" enough to see those invisible people, untouchable people, the lower cast.
I believe that art can help the invisible in our society have their own common ground and know that someone sees them. This is my philosophy.
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