Saturday, April 25, 2015

Landfills and Dumps

I’m not a fan of the literal. That is, I avoid seeing, or looking at, anything too literally. And I try to avoid displaying anything too literally. I prefer my ‘truths’ laden with their innate complexities (most ‘truths’ are, after all, a complex meld of fact, fiction, and data, liberally sprinkled with opinion). 
Indeed, for someone NOT an academic, I can become annoyingly arcane before settling on a ‘truth’.
All this to say that, in an effort to portray, beyond the dimension of words, the reality of our planet strewn with trash, I wandered into a stark reality about landfills that I’m trying to portray in clay—neither obviously too literal nor too subtle.
First, tidbits about the world’s landfills: of the thousands and thousands of BIG landfills out there a few actually compete to be the known as The World’s Largest. Here’s a brief rundown of these: 


Asia has big dumps. South Korea’s Sudokwon (30 km west of Seoul) is the current favorite for World’s Largest Landfill. China has Guiya and Laogang in the south. The Philippines has Payatas, in Quezon City. India has Deonar in Mumbai and Ghazipur in New Delhi. Kyrgyzstan has Bishkek.


Africa offers Agbogbloshie, in Accra, Ghana; Olusosun, in Nigeria; Lagoon in South Sudan, and Dandora and Kibarani outside Nairobi, Kenya. 

United States

On the other side of the planet, in the United States, the biggest landfill is in Shawnee, Kansas, KS, followed by Puente Hills, CA, near Los Angeles, and Apex, NV, near Las Vegas. 

Central and South America

If it isn’t larger than Sudokwon, Mexico City’s Bordo Poniente runs a close second to Sudokwon for title of World’s Largest Landfill. Until it closed in June 2012, after 34 years of operation, Brazil’s Jardim Gramacho (English translation: Gramacho Garden) may have been the site of the World Largest Landfill. Brazil’s Estrutural, another huge, sprawling landfill may close down soon, too.
Nicaragua’s biggest landfill is La Chureco. Honduras’s world class landfill is called Tegucigalpa in the city of the same name; Boliva’s is K’ara K’ara and Peru’s, Haquira. 

Islands of Garbage

Now, think upon these small, crowded spaces…and that they must devote portions of their precious landmass to landfill: in Palestine, Gaza Strip’s landfill is Johr al-Deek (population density of Gaza Strip is is 4,661 persons/km2!) Rafah’s, Sofa. Haiti’s dump is named Truties. Dominican Republic’s is named Duquesa. East Timor’s dump, near Dili, is named Tibor and Indonesia’s dump, near Jakarta, is Bantar Gebang.
(Since this is a post about communicating beyond words via clay about our planet and its trash and not specifically about landfills, if you’re interested in knowing more about landfills link here to learn more and to see pix.)

The Shame Totem

The clay piece I am creating is a ‘shame totem’. As you may know, a totem is, often, a tall, vertical carved or painted family or clan representation or emblem with identifiable common/meaningful objects. A ‘shame totem’ is geared to elicit public embarrassment, usually for unpaid debts although Alaska Native carver Mike Webber of Cordova erected one to shame Exxon Mobil on the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill…. Read more here:  Shame Pole Unveiled. (Pacific North West Native Americans don’t erect shame totems much anymore but Mike’s totem seemed to do the job he designed it for. When I first discovered it online, I found many references to, and pictures of, this work. Since then, online pictures of the totem seem to have disappeared—at least, it is tough, now, to find an online photo of this totem. Perhaps Mobil Exxon’s lawyers bullied Mike into submission and he agreed to stop publicizing the totem.)  
My piece—title not finalized yet—sits on a base for two more pieces. Currently in the leather hard phase, the piece is, unlike my other totems, only about 30 inches tall…think of it as more of a ‘shame bust’ than a ‘shame totem.’
This work is more literal than most of my clay work. (Perhaps this is why I’m writing about it: I’m talking myself through an unfamiliar amount of literalness….)
Take a look at the piece. Again, this is the leather hard phase…a very basic, raw phase. The pieces still have to dry out, then go through a bisque firing—a dangerous phase as I use recycled clay that is notorious for blowing up during the bisque firing phase if not properly dried out. After the bisque firing, the pieces are glazed/underglazed; then the pieces are glaze fired. There can be any number of glaze firings….

The base. I often use words and stories in my work. This piece has a line of poetry by Rumi, translated from Dari to read: "Heedlessness is a pillar that sustains our world, my friend." The piece shows two figures straining to prop up the central pillar, Heedlessness.

The globe sits upon the base. It shows an elementary map--including the Pacific garbage patch--and an equatorial "band" of endangered marine creatures. Below that, names of landfills.

The location for the headdress...

...a view of the headdress from the rear...

...and a view of the headdress from the front.... All these pieces will be bisque fired then glazed.

No comments: