Wasteland Discussion Questions

(1) How do class distinctions between Vik Muniz and the pickers manifest in the film? To what extent does Vik attempt to relate to the pickers and/or create divisions between them?
Preliminary Response: While Muniz comes from a background of poverty, he had opportunities that many of the people in this film never did. The film tries to connect Muniz to the pickers through shared backgrounds and his desire to ‘give back.’ However Muniz distances himself from the pickers spatially, by standing and directing their labor from a platform, and through a rather condescending manner of speaking both about and to them.

(2) Is art an activist medium? That is, is art a useful tool to bring about social or political change? If so, to what degree and if not, why?
Preliminary Response: Art can assist in activism and awareness building, but does not function by itself. That is, art itself does not bring about social change, but it can contribute to an activist cause. The product’s suitability for use in activist pursuits depend on factors such as funding, sales, who gets credit for the art, labor, and power dynamics within the creative process, as they all influence the art’s social, political, and economic implications. Due to the power dynamics related to class and labor in the art this film highlights, I am hesitant to include Muniz’s work in any category more engaged than awareness building.