The art of accommodating waste
Posted on October, 28th 2014.
The Californian photographer, Gregg Segal photographed people with the garbage they accumulate over the course of a week. Other photographers, using the same unfortunately photogenic material, also sound the alarm about this major problem of pollution.
His camera, perched four meters off the ground, offers a breathtaking view of the bed of garbage on which its owners are lying. With these photos revealing the brutal truth of a consumer society, the 7 Days of Garbage series makes quite an impression lying somewhere between discomfort and fascination about this invasive, pervasive and endemic production.
7 Days of Garbage by Gregg Segal, will be presented in "The Fence", a group exhibition at the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York until October.
The aim here is not to illustrate the Diogenes syndrome, depicting those who compulsively hoard their waste without being able to dispose of it, but to educate Americans, who produce an average of two kilograms of waste per day per person (50% more than Europeans) on the urgent need for them to change their behavior. In 2008, Gregg Segal had already worked on this theme with Detritus. He imagined a creature entirely made out of packaging which was an autonomous monster present in our lives, a shadow of ourselves or our diabolical selves.
Heaps, mounds, hills, and mountains of waste. This is a troubling landscape that other artists have also worked on. Between 2007 and 2010, Vik Muniz worked on it at the world's largest open landfill near Rio de Janeiro. He produced Pictures of Garbage where the portraits of six "sorters" were created using his signature collage technique making each component a scrap. The proceeds of the auction of his work went to the people who lived in this landfill. The film Waste Land portrays its history.
The artist, Chris Jordan constantly denounces this "slow apocalypse" as he calls it. Ten years ago he created the Intolerable beauty: portraits of American mass consumption series. Oil containers, mobile phones, computer circuits... fill every inch of the image, bordering on hypnotic abstraction. Midway, his current project, is terrifying. On an island, in the middle of nowhere, baby albatrosses are dying from the mere fact that they are being fed. Corks, lighters, bits of plastic: the photos of their stomachs show that they only contain debris.
Still on the theme of the sea, with Gilles Cenazandotti, artist and director, and Thierry Ledé, photographer in order to show what is unfortunately given by men to the sea which returns it as best it can, they have created ClearArtPlanet. In carefully drawing up an inventory of all the floating objects identified by photographing and organizing exhibitions of them, they hope to attract the eye and the conscience of society.
This obsessional photographic practice is at the very limit of modernity: waste is the only real thing left in a life where the words "dematerialization" and "services" resound. A branch of social sciences even proposes to analyze in detail the contents of our garbage cans and consider what this disposable component says about our relationship with the world: rudology (from the Latin rudus: waste). Show us your waste and we can tell you who you are. Rely on the weight of images to help change our behavior.
Main picture: © Gregg Segal