Vik Muniz Marat Analysis

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Vik Muniz’ Marat (Sebastião) depicts the hardships and strength of Brazilian trash pickers in a remarkably clever and appealing format while also challenging the way in which these workers are perceived by Brazilian society. These trash pickers, known as catadores, are people who are ex-convicts or were homeless and unemployed and therefore had little opportunity in their lives. The Catadores are a union headed by Sebastião that separate recyclable items from the rest of the trash at the Jardim Gramacho landfill in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to be sold on the market. The profits from selling these items are then split amongst the union. Muniz became very intrigued with this group of people and decided to recreate a variety of famous portraits…show more content…
Sebastião and the subject of the original portrait, Jean Paul Marat, share a fair amount in common. Marat was a political revolutionist known for taking a stand against oppressive leadership stripping away human rights from the poor. With inspiration from political texts found in the dump, Sebastião created a union for catadores, looking to improve the lives of poor, underprivileged people. Along with this, Marat had a skin disease which disgusted people of his time and forced him to spend most of his life in a bathtub. This is similar to Sebastião’s situation as Brazilian society is disgusted by the work that Catadores do. Also, Sebastião has had to spend much of his life in a landfill (a lot less comfortable than a bathtub), which shows that the two were also quite contrasting, giving Muniz’ work a sense of dark humor. Specifically, while Marat was a well known, wealthy elite, Sebastião is an unsung hero of blue collar workers. Along with this, Sebastião is placed into a portrait of an ill and deceased man. This is quite ironic as Sebastião is both strong from working in the landfill and certainly is not diseased or dying. Knowing Sebastião’s story allows Marat (Sebastião) to give an art history lesson on The Death of Marat and compares and contrasts the subjects of both works in an entertaining…show more content…
The usage of trash to create a portrait of Sebastião suggests that he is a lowlife that should be looked down upon. Although, the portrait compares him with an honorable political revolutionist and scholar. Also, Muniz includes two toilet seats in the middle of the portrait, possibly suggesting that the opinion that a human is trash and worthless is essentially shit. Furthermore, historical context comes with pattern of trash on his body. While these pieces of trash appear to represent the shadows in the original portrait, the patterns created by the trash on his skin hints at the fact that Jean Paul Marat had a skin disease. What makes this interesting is that the original painting by David does not show Marat’s skin condition. Lastly, the usage of trash is certainly a comment on human waste as Muniz took materials deemed useless by others to create this work rather than wasting new materials. The use of trash in this piece creates an interesting commentary on a variety of different
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