WWW (World Map), Pictures of Junk

Vik Muniz

Date : 2008

Medium : Photography

Size : Triptych of 149 x 102 cm (each panel)

Made from waste collected in the garbage dumps of Rio de Janeiro, the Pictures of Junk series put detritus on a par with an artistic medium. Vik Muniz recycles what he finds on an abandoned airfield and puts together gigantic jigsaw puzzles before photographing them from a crane, as in this map of the world’s junk.

 The multiple levels of perception and understanding of the work is revealed according to the point of view adopted by the viewer. What is the right distance to see the world ? To distance oneself, to put oneself to the side, or to come as close as possible? The place of the human being is between the infinitely large and the infinitely small.


The guide

Look, it’s a map of the world. But let's look a little closer, shall we? Now we see that it is a monumental photograph presented as a triptych.
The map looks familiar but also different and strange.
Let's look even closer.
What we see is not what we thought we were seeing. While it is indeed a photograph, it is not that of the Earth but of an Arcimboldo-style portrait. Vik Muniz proposes a whimsical planetary geography consisting of various electronic components and old computer monitors, all of which are so obsolete they appear to be from another century.

True to his artistic practice, Muniz calls into question the standard codes of photography, starting with its testimonial function, to toy with our perception. He relies on our recognition ability by always using very well-known images that range from the Mona Lisa to Hollywood celebrities, while simultaneously betting on the element of surprise by undermining the reproduction of the iconic image through the use of the most unexpected materials: from caviar to dust, or the electronic components in this photograph.

For Muniz, the artwork is not the object he creates (which he later destroys anyway) but the photograph. Capturing a larger-than-life reality in images made with diamonds or a tragic one in the portraits of favela children composed of garbage from the Rio Carnival, the Brazilian artist offers us a critique and a warning by showing us the planet as a vast garbage dump for our modern communications hardware.