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Plastik ka Mela: waste work and the art of survival


Wednesday 5th April, 1.30pm – 9pm (IST). [9am – 5.30pm BST]


One day symposium and book launch at G5A Foundation, Mumbai

Live (in person) event with presentations to be livestreamed worldwide


Compound 13 Lab is an experimental learning and making space situated close to the plastic recycling hub of 13 Compounds in Dharavi. Using art, design, music, media and experimental science as a platform for generating knowledge and sharing learning, Compound 13 Lab explores the issues of waste, work and survival faced by the thousands of families, young people and workers engaged in Mumbai’s informal recycling, repair and recovery industries. In this symposium we bring together community members, academics, artists, and urbanists to explore some of the issues and challenges faced by the communities of workers who through their efforts, every day, prevent the city of Mumbai from disappearing under a mountain of its own plastic waste.


We reflect on the principles and pedagogies that underpin the work undertaken in the Lab, incorporating voices and perspectives from projects exploring similar issues in other locations worldwide, including work from Disappearing Dialogues, West Bengal; Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform, Ghana, and the Museum for the United Nations’ Global WE project. 

We also launch our new publication: Waste Work: the art of survival in Dharavi, which documents and explains the approaches and methods used in building Compound 13 Lab as a shared space for learning, and reflects on the knowledges, contestations and urban struggles that shape the ‘wastescapes’ of informal recycling work in India.


Presented by Compound 13 Lab in association with G5A Foundation, ACORN India, Bath School of Art, Film and Media, Bath Spa University, and the Protracted Crisis Research Centre at the University of the West of Scotland. Supported by the British Academy through the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund






Interactive workshops at G5A, morning of 5th April

  • 3D printing/portraits with artist Ian Dawson

  • Drumming workshops with Dharavi Rocks!




Session One: Waste, work and the city 


1.30 – 3.30 [9am – 11am BST]


Compound 13 Lab: learning, making and thinking through waste [20 mins]

Dr Ben Parry, Prof Graham Jeffery and Dr Vidya Sagar Pancholi, Compound 13 Lab


The plastic waste policy landscape in India [30 mins]
avi Agarwal (Toxics Links) in conversation with
Vinod Shetty (ACORN India)


The future of the informal circular economy in India [30 mins]

Mobeen Sheikh – All India Plastic Recycling Association

Arfin Nasir Khan – waste entrepreneur, Mumbai

Laxmi Kamble – ACORN India

Dr Vidya Sagar Pancholi – Research Fellow, Compound 13 Lab


Q&A chaired by Professor Graham Jeffery




Session Two:  arts-based methods and urban pedagogies  


4.00 – 5.30 IST [11.30am – 1pm BST]


Urban arts pedagogies with young people: a discussion with the C13 Lab residency team

C13 Lab: Artists’ panel [30 mins]

Aqui Thami : sharing stories, making space

Ian Dawson : the Plastisphere

Sharmila Samant : Dharavi’s Flamingo Fighter 


Reflection from Dr Penny Hay [10 mins]


Q&A Chaired by Dr Ben Parry [20 mins]



5.30 – 6.30pm Break (drinks and snacks @ G5A



Session Four: Projects from elsewhere

6.30pm – 8.00pm IST [2pm – 3.30pm BST]


Intervention (via Zoom): Agbogbloshie Makerspace platform, Ghana

Yasmine Abbas : Penn State University (  [20 min]

Nobina Gupta : Disappearing Dialogues – Kolkata  [15 min]

Sasha Rodricks  : Director Global We, Museum for the United Nations  [15 min]


Q&A chaired by Prof Graham Jeffery [15 min]




Session Five: Book Launch

8.00 – 9.00 IST [4.30pm – 5.30pm BST]


Book launch: Waste Work: the art of survival in Dharavi

Ben Parry and Graham Jeffery with the Compound 13 Lab team


15 min set from Old Brotherz





Tuesday 4th  Waste Stories


An evening of film screenings and discussion



A sequence of films that challenge, unsettle and disrupt conventional narratives of waste work and urban informality. These films, made collaboratively with ACORN India, explore everyday life and everyday hopes, dreams and fears in Dharavi.

Followed by a post-screening discussion with the filmmakers


Film Screenings and discussion:

Waste – Parasher Baruah (2008) 37 mins

Wastescapes/Materials of Hope – Ben Parry/Graham Jeffery (2017 – 2023) 17 mins

Compound 13 Citizen Journalism = Amol Lalzare (2019 – 2022) Three short films made with Compound 13 Lab participants. 10 mins

Playtime – Abhijeet Patro (2022)

A Waste Worker from Dharavi - Subhui Jiwani (2021)


Q&A / panel discussion with the filmmakers


Compound Terra Plastik ka Mela: (13 Compounds: Festival of Plastic)


Repair, Recycling, and Restoration: an interactive exhibition of social and environmental works from Compound 13 Lab at the Maharashtra Nature Park


Mon 10th April - Thurs 13th April

Maharashtra Nature Park, Sion Bandra Link Road, Dharavi (opp. Bus Depot), Mumbai

Opening times: 8.30am – 3.30pm

Compound 13 Lab is situated close to one of Mumbai’s main recycling hubs, where each week thousands of tons of hard waste are sorted, cleaned, and processed. Tens of thousands of people work in this industry: they make a huge contribution as unrecognised ‘green collar workers’ to cutting the amount of waste that goes to landfill and incineration, and reducing the region’s carbon footprint. Compound 13 Lab, hosted by ACORN India, explores livelihoods and alternative futures, working closely with people engaged in repair and recycling work across the neighbourhood. At the Lab, knowledge and learning is shared through art, design, music, media and citizen science. In this exhibition, we bring together a series of works made by artists, filmmakers and designers who have been collaborating with young people, workers and families from Dharavi over the last six years.


Maharashtra Nature Park, a remarkable success story of ecological recovery, is built on what previously was a dumping site for Mumbai’s solid waste. It points the way to what is possible as part of a vision of a city free of pollution, with nature at the forefront of a process of ecological restoration. During the week we will welcome citizens, workers, neighbours and young people to share stories and imagine a future ‘green city’. Included in this conversation will be some of the frontline workers in waste recovery and recycling who will share stories about their lives, hopes, dreams and fears as the city speeds into the 21st Century. 



Mamoni Chitrakar / Parasher Baruah / Ian Dawson / Graham Jeffery / Subuhi Jiwani / Amol Lalzare / Ben Parry / Abhijeet Patro / Sharmila Samant / Aqui Thami / Rahul Kohli


Presented by Compound 13 Lab in association with ACORN India, Bath School of Art, Film and Media, Bath Spa University, the Museum for the United Nations’ GLOBAL WE project, and the Protracted Crisis Research Centre at the University of the West of Scotland. Supported by the British Academy through the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

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GLOBAL WE - 19 Portals around the world

“Global We for Climate Action,” to bring the voices of the many into the climate agenda.

The Dharavi Portal, led by Compound 13 Lab, joins the Global We programme by bringing voices from underrepresented communities from Dharavi into global conversations about the impacts of climate change on everyday lives of those living at the frontline of ecological, climatic and human-driven impacts, including contamination of essential resources such as water, food and clean air. 




























In its simplest form, portals are repurposed shipping containers that are equipped with large screens and high-quality audio to create immersive experiences, enabling eye-to-eye, life-size conversations between participants in distant parts of the world, who feel as though they are in the same room.

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Image: Vitra Design Museum

A collaborative event convened by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and V&A Dundee.


Bringing together thinking from our latest exhibition, Plastic: Remaking our World and the Paul Mellon Centre's multi-year project, Climate & Colonialism, this symposium explores the complex past, problematic present and possible futures of plastic.

Following a private viewing of the exhibition, participants will join international researchers, designers, artists, and activists in a series of discussions and presentations exploring the interconnections between plastics, climate, and colonialism.


The symposium will ask:
Where did plastic come from?
How do we understand its colonial histories?
How are art, craft and design practices implicated in these extractive processes, and how do they challenge them?
What is the ongoing impact of climate injustice and the unequal impact of global waste streams on people and the planet?
Is there a future post-plastic?
What role do artists, designers and environmental humanities researchers play in creating such futures?

Synthetic Histories: Plastics, Climate, and Colonialism is convened by Sria Chatterjee, (Paul Mellon Centre); Nichol Keene (V&A Dundee), Charlotte Hale (V&A Dundee), and Laurie Bassam.


Heather Davis, Assistant Professor of Culture and Media, The New School, New York
Nanjala Nyabola, writer, political analyst, and activist.
Max Liboiron, Associate Professor in Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland and founder of CLEAR, an interdisciplinary plastic pollution laboratory (online presentation).
Alia Farid, Kuwaiti-Puerto Rican artist

Alice Mah

Elizabeth Darling (Reader in Architectural History, Oxford Brookes University)

Alexander Davidson (Arts writer and lecturer)

Charlotte Matter (University of Zurich, Institute of Art History)

Hoyee Tse (Royal College of Art)

Amy Woodson-Boulton (Professor of History, Loyola Marymount University)

Compound 13 Lab,  Ben Parry, artist, senior lecturer, Bath Spa University. Graham Jeffery, Professor, University of West of Scotland

Jessica Varner, University of Southern California

Sarah Rose, artist

About the Exhibition

Plastic: Remaking Our World charts the changing fortunes of a material with a history of more than 150 years. The exhibition asks How did we get here?, beginning with the innovation of a material that now has global dominance. It presents the story of plastic from invention to ubiquity, from the history of what was once considered a magical material to the challenge of plastic pollution today as one of the world’s most urgent issues. The exhibition features product design, graphics, architecture and fashion from the collections of the V&A and Vitra Design Museum, as well as collections all over the world. This is the first exhibition co-produced by V&A Dundee, the Vitra Design Museum and maat, Lisbon with curators from V&A London.


About the Climate & Colonialism Research Project

The Climate & Colonialism research project led by Sria Chatterjee at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art works towards new and interdisciplinary understandings of visual and material culture produced around and in response to the interconnected and enduring histories of colonialism, capitalism and climate change. A primary aim of this multi-year project is to provide a testing ground for transhistorical conversations and collaborations between art historians, artists and other scholarly and community groups thinking critically about colonialism and climate change.






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Newhaven Art Projects have commissioned artist Ian Dawson to curate ‘The Waste Makers on Cornucopia Street’ which transforms the Newhaven Art Space venue into an exhibition and workshop environment....

Taking its title from Vance Packard’s pioneering book ‘The Waste Makers’ from the 1960’s, which exposes the demise of the environment through the growth of disposable consumer goods, the exhibition asks us to think about themes around waste and how we might interpret, rework and re-examine them.

How do we arrive at waste? Is it matter out of place? What is the difference between dirt and waste? And what is digital waste? Searching for new perspectives on this subject brings a set of diverse artists together to discuss their work in relation to waste.

The exhibition presents work from North America and India, representing the globalised nature of waste. From the global south, the Compound 13 lab present the work that this experimental art space has made through working with citizens from the informal settlement, Dharavi, the centre of the recycling trade in Mumbai.

From North America, Migueltzinta Solis challenges ideas about how the cornucopia of the West creates both a belonging and un-belonging and how we might repair broken communities that have previously been laid to waste. Each artist represented in the exhibition brings a different and thoughtful response to 'matter out of place'.

Exhibiting artists: John Walter, Donna Mitchell, Jasone Miranda Bilbao, Aqui Thami, Louisa Minkin, Sharmila Samant, Ben Parry, Compound 13 Lab, Migueltzinta Solis, Andrea Mason, Amanda Jobson, Ian Dawson.

We think, at Newhaven Art Projects, that it’s important that this exhibition is here as the Newhaven Energy Recovery Facility dominates our local skyline. Building upon those very same themes that this facility undertakes with everyday materials, the show focuses on restoration and rehabilitation whilst re-iterating the impact of lifestyle and resulting waste on our diverse communities.

Workshops held in the space will involve new technologies such as laser scanning and 3d printing as well as poetry readings


‘The Waste Makers on Cornucopia Street’ runs from 3 – 19 November with a preview evening on Friday 4 November 5.30 – 8 pm.

The gallery is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11 am – 5 pm. (Closing at 2 pm on 5 November)

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