By Julien Devereux
The Metropolis Observed
An estimated 450,000 scavengers pick over the trash heaps in Jakarta, Indonesia, collecting anything they think they can resell. When American artist Ann Wizer moved there in 2000, she saw an opportunity to help the scavengers and take her art in a new direction. "Last year I had an exhibition called Empty Legacy: Works Made from Trash," she says. "I made shoulder bags from garbage, employing the scavengers I had watched for months. The bags sold so well, I thought it would be silly not to continue." Wizer pays the scavengers for trash--specifically plastic-coated packaging for things like fabric softener or Capri Sun juice--and then employs some of them to wash, sort, and sew the salvaged items into patterns she designs.
Wizer will launch a line of bags and furniture in Singapore this May. Ultimately she hopes to hand the whole operation off to the Indonesian scavengers who inspired her. "I never intended to be a bag designer," she says. "I got it started, and now I want to give it to those who need it."