Created in response to the ever-increasing mountains of garbage at waste management sites, Waste Landscape is, according to the artists, Elise Morin and Clémence Eliard a “500 square meter artificial undulating landscape covered by an armor of 65,000 unsold or collected CDs.” Both epic and mesmerising, the work reflects on the inevitable redundancy of the CD as an everyday disposable object. As compact disc technology is increasingly being replaced by more sophisticated means of data storage, CDs are destined for landfill. As the artists state, “Made of petroleum, this reflecting slick of CDs forms a still sea of metallic dunes: the artwork’s monumental scale reveals the precious aspect of a small daily object.” The CDs were hand-sewn together by the artists and a team of volunteers. Waste Landscape has been exhibited in Paris and The Hague and after the next iteration in Bucharest, Morin and plan to recycle the CDs.
Aesthetic/Visual: To create an enticing artificial landscape that draws attention to waste and landfill. The rolling metallic mounds aim to reflect the piles of garbage at a waste depot. The monumental scale of the work was crucial to represent the overwhelming issue surrounding landfill and waste centres.
Audience Engagement: In the lead up to the first exhibition of the work at Le Centquatre in Paris, Morin and Eliard invited volunteers to donate their old CDs. They installed a drop box at the Palais de Tokyo and Le Centquatre for two months prior to the exhibition. The artwork was designed to enable an easy production process, with no special skills required, allowing the public to easily help with construction. The main activity people assist with was sewing the CDs together.
Social Activation and Education: The artists aimed to start conversations about waste and recycling and to ask visitors to think about multiple uses of products, e.g., that CDs can be recycled into another valuable material and re-used. Morin and Eliard identified the importance of presenting the work in a public space and in locations “coherent with the stakes of the project: the role of art in society, the sensitization to environmental problems through culture, the alternative mode of production and the valuation of district associative work and professional rehabilitation.” By presenting the work in a public space, where people happen upon it, makes it more available to a wider audience, who may not necessarily visit a gallery or museum.
Waste Reduction and Management: The public donated 10,000 CDs through the Collect Drive collection boxes at the Palais de Tokyo and Le Centquatre. Universal Music donated 55,000 unsold CDs and also CDs that were damaged or did not work to the artists to create the installation. At the end of the exhibition tour, the artists plan to recycle the CDs to make re-usable polycarbonate.
outcomes & impacts
Audience Engagement: There were visitor assistants present at the exhibition to talk to the public about the artwork; they explained why Morin and Eliard chose to use CDs, the global context of the project, and the economical, political and environmental aspects of the work. A workshop for children also took place.
Debate: Morin and Eliard felt that interest in the installation generated important debates about waste, recycling, economy, and production.
Waste Reduction and Management: The public donated 10,000 CDs through the Collect Drive at the Palais de Tokyo. Universal Music donated 55,000 unsold CDs and also CDs that were damaged or did not work to the artists to create the installation. At the end of the exhibition tour, the artists plan to recycle the CDs to make re-usable polycarbonate.
The first exhibition of Waste Landscape at Le Centquatre was through the initiative of the artists Elise Morin and Clémence Eliard. They had a global objective for the artwork and initially looked for an exhibition space that was consistent with the themes of the work; somewhere that was a public space with free access to the whole community. To present the exhibition, they originally approached Paris City Hall, which declined their proposal, and then Le Centquatre, which accepted.
Once Le Centquatre offered the space, Morin and Eliard began sourcing partnerships for funding and support. Universal Music provided the majority of CDs, Sofricel donated the inflatable domes, La Poste afforded transport, and IPMI supplied the recycling facilities. The project was created on a small budget, with all production work done by Morin, Eliard and a group of volunteers and interns. The artists did apply for grant funding but were not successful based on the stage of the work. Eliard explains, “the City of Paris, sometimes they help artists and give money, but they don’t do it for production, they do it for the process before production, so we arrived too late”.
The installation was designed to be a kit with different aspects that could be easily reproduced and re-exhibited, but also altered to create new landscapes. For example, the inflatable domes could be re-sized or re-shaped, as well as the arrangement repositioned.
After the success of the Paris iteration, Morin and Eliard were commissioned to present the work again in 2012 by the 8th edition of TodaysArt Festival in The Hague. They are planning to exhibit the work a third time before it is then recycled.
Impacts of artwork production
The production of Waste Landscape maintained a minimal environmental footprint. All the CDs were recycled or second-hand, cutting down on new manufacturing expenditure. The work was created entirely by hand, with volunteers sewing the CDs together. The main non-environmental element were the inflatable domes, which used a small amount of electricity to keep them inflated during the exhibition, however the materials can be recycled. The work is reasonably compact and can be easily transported in one truck.
Morin and Eliard plan to recycle the CDs and inflatables after the exhibition tour finishes. The CDs can be melted down into a re-usable polycarbonate, which Eliard and Morin state could be for example, “made into windscreen wipers.” Morin is currently sourcing a new partnership to un-sew the installation and remove the plastic resource from the CDs so that it can then be recycled.
Eliard, Clémence. Interview by author, March 6, 2013.
Meinhold, Bridgette. “WasteLandscape: 65,000 Discarded CDs Form a Sea of Metallic Dunes in Paris.” Inhabitat, entry posted August 14, 2011. http://inhabitat.com/wastelandscape-65000-discarded-cds-form-a-sea-of-metallic-dunes-in-paris/ (accessed March 12, 2013).
Morin, Elise. Interview by author, February 12, 2013.
Toor, Amar. “Waste Landscape Installation Reminds Us Why CDs Weren’t That Great.” Engadget, entry posted August 4, 2011. http://www.engadget.com/2011/08/04/waste-landscape-installation-reminds-us-why-cds-werent-that-gre/ (accessed March 12, 2013).
“Waste Landscape by Elise Morin and Clémence Eliard.” Contemporist, entry posted August 1, 2011. http://www.contemporist.com/2011/08/01/waste-landscape-by-elise-morin-and-clemence-eliard/ (accessed March 12, 2013).