Hills and Valleys

Exhibit examines how waste moves through the L.A. landscape

At the Getty Center Los Angeles, visitors can peruse an exhibit of landscape photography spanning more than 150 years. The nearby Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Culver City, Calif., also has organized an exhibit spotlighting landscape, but of a different nature. "Post-Consumed: The Landscape of Waste in Los Angeles" examines the movement of waste through Los Angeles and the physical locations involved, including landfills, materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and transfer stations.

"We try to extract the poetry, if you will, of the issue," says Matt Coolidge, founder and director of CLUI. The exhibit, compiled by Coolidge and his staff members, is part of a series focusing on waste that also includes a bus tour to a nearby landfill and a presentation by Heather Rogers, independent filmmaker and author of "Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage."

The exhibit features kiosks with text and video illustrating how waste is collected, sorted and landfilled. In the middle of the 800-sq.-ft. exhibit space, materials representing the main components of the waste stream such as a banana peel, a bottle and cardboard are on display.

Three of Los Angeles' residential bins — green, blue and black — are on display along with explanations of where the materials collected in each bin end up. Arial images of the Puente Hills Landfill, located outside Los Angeles, provide viewers with a variety of vantage points. The exhibit also explores a network of area landfills that have been closed over the years and show what they look like today.

To complement the exhibit, CLUI hosted a bus tour to the Puente Hills Landfill and MRF on Aug. 1. Tickets for the 55-seat bus tour sold out within minutes of being released, Coolidge says. While heading east from Los Angeles toward Whittier, riders watched a waste-related video on the bus and stopped at a transfer station to observe its operations.

At the landfill, an engineer from Los Angeles County led them on a tour, discussing methane collection and movement of the recently arrived waste. When finished at the landfill and MRF, the group stopped at the nearby Rose Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary, one of the nation's largest cemeteries, which overlooks the landfill on one side and the hills of Ventura on the other.

"Looking at these places [shows] the effect of our collective actions," Coolidge says.

A version of "Post-Consumed" traveled to the La Biennale di Venezia 11th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, Italy. It was slated to run until Mid-November. "The exhibit fits in with our mission to educate about physical spaces," Coolidge says. "We often look at things that are overlooked in general by people, and we believe that there is no 'away' for things. Everything has to stay in this planetary system."

Jennifer Grzeskowiak is a Laguna Beach, Calif.-based freelancer writer.