A public art project can’t get much bigger or more urgent than one that tackles our personal responsibility for the environment, and thus our collective responsibility for our future. Privileged Tactics II, a project of Sara Heitlinger and Franc Purg, attempts to do just this, and inspire action, by asking the question: When is waste one person’s trash and another’s privilege? A 2nd place winner of the UNESCO Digital Arts Award in 2007, Privileged Tactics II, is a work-in-progress that focuses on the low-impact and low-tech model of waste disposal by 70,000 Zaballeen (“people that collect rubbish”) who live in Cairo, Egypt.
(Image: Privilege Tactics II, Recycling plastic in Moqattam, Cairo)
What Sara and Franc aim to do is to help the Zaballeen model gain global visibility and notoriety: 1) as an alternative to the replacement of their own system by international waste-disposal companies that are ecologically unsustainable, impractical, and socially irresponsible; and, 2) as a environmentally benevolent tool for waste management in cities across the global south (a.k.a. the developing world/third world). The Zaballeen model is not only low-tech and low-impact, it’s a life-sustaining economic model for family-run cottage industries built around the collection and recycling of garbage in a city of over 17 million people.
(Image: Privilege Tactics II, Central Cairo)
The Privileged Tactics II project is in the midst of executing and developing a digital-public art project built around Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, technology. The technology can be used to develop a system of tagging on objects and products, that in this case would be used to track garbage items along their path of creation, use and disposal. By maintaining tag codes within a computer database, individuals could potentially base their consumer practices on information such as: the energy, pollution and materials consumed and created in an object’s production; how far it and its source materials traveled; where and how the object is disposed of; and, if manufacturers have taken responsibility for a product throughout its life cycle, including its disposal.
(Image: Privilege Tactics II, Plastic in Moqattam, Cairo)
There’s no doubt that the problem that Priviledged Tactics II is attempting to address is monumental. However, it is truly a much needed contribution to the civilizing of humanity’s collective ego.
Sara and Franc’s first RFID tracked garbage item will be bottled water distributed in the Cairo area. So far, action/exhibitions on the project are scheduled for Hamburg, Germany, Nottingham, UK and Ljubljana, Slovenia. Check the Privileged Tactics website for updates on Privileged Tactics II, and to find out about Privileged Tactics I, which asked: When is stealing a criminal tactic, and when is it a legal, or privileged tactic?