Photos by Oscar Vinck
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.
Landfill, Portugal: Gesamb – Gestao Ambiental E De Residuos, Nossa Senhora Da Tourega, Évora
Landfill, Spain: Conica Montemart, Sevilla
Landfill, Morocco: Route De Moulay Bousselham, Kenitra
Salvador Peris, "Feeding in urban refuse dumps: ingestion of plastic objects by the white stork (ciconia ciconia)", Ardeola 50, no. 1 (2003): 81–84. Link
Héloïse Charital and Ismaël Rifaï form the research design studio Studiolow, based in Marseilles. Héloïse earned a bachelor and master in art history from University Lyon II and a Master in Curating and Writing from Design Academy Eindhoven. She uses methodologies from cultural archaeology, semiotics, archival sciences, and journalism, as well as performance and poetry. Ismaël Rifaï (b.1993) earned a bachelor from the French design school of Saint-Etienne and a master in Social design from Design Academy Eindhoven. His fascination for the borders lead him to explore subjects like migration and commercial exchange through art and design with an anthropological lens.