Visual artist Vik Muniz shows ‘continuous invention’, uses of ordinary objects in art


Wesley Herold

Visual Artist Vik Muniz, who combines various art forms into his photography, spoke at the Nov. 16 Lecture in Photography series

By Campus Reporter

During the last Lecture in Photography event of the semester, audience members were able to watch world-renowned visual artist Vik Muniz’s discuss his use of ordinary materials like sugar, chocolate, thread and bacteria to “draw” various subjects.

Originally a sculptor, Muniz shifted his focus, combining sculpture with drawing and photography in work such as his landscape drawings made of black thread, images of children created by sprinkling sugar on black paper, and various images made with chocolate and bacteria.

During the Nov. 16 event, held at the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building, Muniz, who has had work displayed in New York City, London and Hong Kong, talked about the meaning of art, his early career as an artist and the multiple series of work he has created.

Muniz, who was born in São Paulo, Brazil, said his interest in art began as a child when he struggled with learning to read and write and turned to learning visually.

Muniz said producing artwork as a series allows him to focus on the process.

“I’m always working in series,” Muniz said. “That allows me to employ the knowledge I get from making one piece into the next. You start working with the material, and the pieces are not very well accomplished, but then you start making them better.”

Dawoud Bey, a professor in the Photography Department, coordinated the lecture with the Museum of Contemporary Photography, 624 S. Michigan Ave. He said he has wanted to bring Muniz to Columbia for several years and enjoys Muniz’s creativity.

“He makes [art] out of things that seem impossible,” Bey said. “[I enjoy] the inventiveness, the wonderful sense of imagination and also the way a lot of his work is socially engaging.”

Kalin Haydon, a first-year graduate student in the Photography Department who attended the event and is a fan of Muniz, said she thinks his artwork is necessary, especially after the results of the recent presidential election.

“We need his humor and point of view right now,” Haydon said. “A lot of the artwork that’s going to be coming out right now is going to be super heavy and serious, so I love that he makes really nice work with a nice point of view.”

Haydon said her favorite part of the event was Muniz’s ideas about perspective.

“As artists, that’s our voice,” Haydon said. “Everybody sees what is happening, but it’s how you see it and how you deal with it and react.”

Bey said he hopes the lecture reinforces what he already knows about Muniz and his work.

“His deep passion, his deep interest in investigating the material systems and to figure out how to visualize the information that come out of that,” Bey said. “Making work with sugar, chocolate, garbage [and] bacteria— there’s a wonderful sense of continuous invention.”

Muniz said art is the intersection of the outside world and the mind of the individual. “The experience of art is not in the mind or the matter, it’s in the moment when you cross the threshold,” Muniz said during the lecture. “When there is a portal between the world of material and the world that is inside your head, that is the sublime in art.”