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Modern Aviaries

Installation view Modern aviaries, part of GEO-DESIGN: JUNK. All That is Solid Melts into Trash,
Oct 19th- Nov 17th 2019, Van Abbe Museum
Curated by Martina Muzi and Joseph Grima

Junk is changing the habits of wildlife around the world. White storks – once emblems of migration – are settling down thanks to the food stability offered by open landfills, creating stork “ghettoes”. Although a food scarcity in the 1970s reduced the population of the storks internationally, their numbers have boomed in southern Europe and northern Africa. There were 1,187 storks in Portugal in 1995 – there are now approximately 14,000. In some areas, they are now so prevalent they are almost considered pests. Despite this, landfills are not the ideal home. Although food is abundant, changing waste habits are impacting on the storks. They can become trapped in or eat pieces of plastic and can be shocked by high-voltage electricity cables.

Héloïse Charital and Ismaël Rifaï’s investigation offers a frame for exploring landfills as architectures of junk, with their own ecosystems and structures built on the waste generated by urban centres nearby. Focusing on landfills at Evora in Portugal, Dos Hermanas in Spain and Kinitra in Morocco, Modern Aviaries depicts open landfills as artificial landscapes. Three sculptures represent the confluence of the natural and the mandmade, a mountain of junk and a wastewater lake. Together, they emulate a constructed ecosystem, echoing the effects of the Anthropocene on the world’s systems.