dumpster diving

Alejandro Duran, Washed Up, 2010

New York based artist, Alejandro Duran, is creating art from trash that washes up on the beaches of Sian Ka’an, in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Although Sian Ka’an is a federally-protected reserve, the Mexican government cannot prevent the area from becoming the final resting place for trash from all over the world. Duran collects the trash, categorizes the different pieces by color, strips them of labels, arranges his collections in the landscape, and then photographs them. The playful titles of the photographs, such as Nubes, Fruta Negra, and Mar (pictured above) belie the perverse horror of waste which will never biodegrade–carelessly discarded by people who believe what they can’t see won’t hurt them–travelling on the open seas and eventually choking the life of a nature reserve thousands of miles away.

Duran also creates “Product Portraits,” which he labels with the product’s country of origin. After photographing these items, Duran uses his own funds to cart the trash to recycling centers. However, this is an extremely difficult undertaking for one artist working under the constraints of time, money and geography.

Washed Up is truly an exercise in “archiving the city,” if we imagine that cities all around the world create these waste-images of themselves, carried by currents to far-away places.

2 thoughts on “dumpster diving

  1. Love your new look site and this post!

    Where I live in Edmonton, like many North American cities, there is a whole ‘informal employment’ economy based on the collection and salvage of recyclables. The practice known as ‘binning’ is hard labour: an average day of binning begins between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m., and consists of up to two runs per day along a particular route or a switch between routes. A single day of binning can involve twenty-five kilometres of foot travel and earn an informal recycler between $25 and $40, which translates, at seven hours of binning, to between $3.57 to $5.71 per hour (by way of comparison, the Alberta minimum hourly wage is currently $8.80 (Province of Alberta, 14/1997:12).

    As well as having a army of ‘binners’ collecting recyclables Edmonton’s Waste Management Centre is said to be one of the leaders in north America, diverting 60-70% of household waste from landfill whereas New york city is at 33%.

    Managing Waste: Edmonton’s great at it!

    Keep the great posts coming… Merle

  2. i should note that the current minimum wage in Alberta is $8.80 and the stats on ‘binners’ hours was taken from Province of Alberta archives.

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