“Waste” explores the rarely seen aspects of what is discarded.

Waste evokes images of plastic bottles, polythene, broken glass — an endless list. But waste has other facets which remain unnoticed. These facets that have been explored by the students of School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, and represented as an exhibition. The exhibition marks the culmination of their six-week-long project as part of the ‘On Curating' course.

Titled “Waste”, the project is conceptualised by Dr. Kavita Singh, Associate Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, wherein students with the help of an NGO ‘Chintan' interacted with rag pickers to gain perspectives on the subject. Divided into five groups, each group worked on a particular area of waste disposal resulting in interesting concepts.

Named “Waste More Want More” the group working at the Ghaziabad godown makes use of cartons stacked upon one and another, to enunciate the fact that urban prerogative to demand is closely linked with over production of waste. Hence painted on the cartons are marketing strategies to sell waste glass, empty pet bottles, waste tin cans etc.

A result of interaction with rag pickers at New Delhi railway station, “Form Perform Uniform,” explains Ayesha Matthan, a member of the group, “Our attempt was to represent the symbolic connotations of a rag picker's uniform at the station. On one hand the uniform provides them with an identity. On the other, the uniform segregates them as rag pickers.” Ayesha further adds, “We have laid stress on the word ‘Form' to indicate their transformation from ordinary waste workers to an organised mass.”

Door-to-door rag picking forms the area of research for two groups. While one narrates the tale of manual scavengers through extremely graphic photographs, the other portrays the rag pickers' perception of themselves. Elaborating on the latter concept, Anannya Bohidar, a student, says, “We have made use of the calendar to show a month in the life of a rag picker. Our attempt is to depict how a rag picker enjoys the basic luxuries of life and they do not want sympathy from people because they are satisfied with their profession.”

Making maximum utilisation of the lens, some students have depicted the dialectical relationship between the city and the waste of the landfill. Considering photography as the best medium to capture reality, Karan Kapoor says, “While some photographs provide a view of the city from the landfill, some highlight the waste at the site.”

With a perfect blend of art and the politics of displaying objects, the exhibition is successful in conveying the ideas of “representation, responsibility and accountability of shared waste.” The exhibition is on till November 23 at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, New Building, JNU.