Archive for Base 5: Informal Cities


by cindy

Finally watched this movie last night.  It is really great.

In its own way the film covers so many of the ideas that we have discussed in class over the semester: the practice of gleaning, the process by which waste policy can be formalized by outsiders, the contents of trash as a reflection of a culture’s ideas and values, trash as the great equalizer (the trash of the rich mixing with the trash of the poor), the social judgements projected upon those who process our garbage, etc.   It leaves the attentive viewer with a lot to think about on the topic of waste management without becoming a didactic work on the subject.

Of course the film is equally about the transformative power of art and the evolution of the artist through the process as well.

The narrative reminded a bit of the Oscar winning film “Born into Brothels”.   While uplifting on one hand, Born into Brothers had did have some problematics around the lens in which it was observed, ie: western white eye goes to Indian brothels, uplifts street kids through art, sells art to rich white people.)  Wasteland is a bit less problematic in this regard since the subjects are adults (less inherently exploitable) and because they are being observed by a native of their culture and background.   I appreciated that aspect of the film making as well.

It’s worth a watch for sure.



by Tassos Lockbird


just for fun / I couldn’t help thinking of this while reading about “informal cities”…

informal life

by Tassos Lockbird


The common theme in this week’s readings is an “informality”, whether we are talking about an informal city, an informal economy or an informal way of living, in a more general sense. The juxtaposition of all the, literally, informal cities Davis is describing in Slum Ecology along with the informal structuring of Tijuana and the informal economy of India, is making me think about the reason of this “informality”. Since we’re dealing with the “waste” of the “formal cities”, the flesh and bones of the “informal cities”, we cannot apply the same rules and regimes, I suppose. Instead of building a city following a conventional way, Tijuana is being built with San Diego’s “leftovers”, in the most “informal” way, opening up the road for all kinds of “informal” interactions and circumstances, creating parallel economic systems, similar to those in India, where it seems there has been an “informal government” as well, since the “formal” one was not doing it’s job properly. The first word that came to mind during this week is “post-apocalyptic” and is making me think of an awfully dark future, but, countries like Brazil, that try to incorporate the informal sector into the formal one, have seen positive results. It is almost logical that an informal city needs an informal way of dealing with its issues.

Japan Quake

by cindy

Pretty crazy that we were JUST talking about this on Wednesday…the idea that Japan as a society has such a formal infrastructure that even a quake of massive magnitude only kills a few dozen people there:

Even with large scale environmental catastrophe, formal structures hold and lives are spared as a result.

Right now in Japan death tolls are somewhere in the hundreds, even though that will assuredly rise.

Quakes in countries with a higher percentage of informal cities – Turkey, Pakistan, Haiti – experience devastation at a massive scale under the same circumstances.

In Haiti the death told ended up somewhere around a half million, I think.


a reinterpretation of Recycling

by Gala

I found this video about a man who lives in the slum area I posted about last week.

I believe his idea of recycling is amazing, not for the idea in it  itself, but the fact that he is willing to do something for improving the conditions in which he lives is a great beginning and if he can influence more people whit his ideas they might be able to do something for an area that the government tends to overlook when improvement expenses are done.

7 Billion National Geographic

By Gala

Hey, I found this video and I thought it might be relevant to the discussion we were having last week.


Here’s a little follow-up on the film “Wasteland” — a February interview on NPR with the director, Lucy Walker, and an up-date on the closing of the landfill and what will happen to the Garbage Pickers Association.
I also highly recommend seeing this if you can!’s-landfill/

One of the amazing things was seeing how this group of marginalized workers organized  (go unions!) and by forming an association improved their working conditions and established a real sense of community.  Making the art work (and seeing the response to the work and the film) has given them a powerful voice and ultimately does change the way they see themselves and the way others now will also.

Elizabeth and I both agreed that one thing missing was the sensory experiences of pungent smells, intense heat and noise.