TRES (Ilana Boltvinik + Rodrigo Viñas, Mexico City) is an art-based research collective founded in 2009 that has focused on exploring the implications of public space and garbage through artistic practices that concentrate on the methodological intertwining and dialogue with science, anthropology, and archaeology, among other disciplines. Of particular interest is the inquiry on the subject of garbage as a physical and conceptual residue that entails political, biological, and material implications. Garbage becomes a metaphor of all that is cast aside, forgotten. We research its capacity to store material, economic and symbolic information that can be used to elaborate individual or collective portraits of our society.

TRES has worked with different qualities that shape garbage. Its mobility {in A Cluster of Oblivion and Ubiquitous Trash – Hong Kong Edition} 2009 and 2016; its spatial traits {in Blind Spots} 2010; its symbolic value {in An Informal Gaze} 2009; its aesthetics {in the book Desechos Reservados} 2009; its intimacy {in All the Shines is Gold} 2011; its permanence {in Chicle y Pega} 2012; its scientific potential {in Urotransfrontation DTC-UR013} 2013, and its hybrid qualities between organic(in)organic {in Ubiquitous Trash – Australia Edition}; amid others.

In 2016 they were granted the Robert Gardner Fellowship for Photography of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, for which they are investigating marine debris and camouflage. In 2014-15 they were awarded the WMA Commission to develop the first Ubiquitous Trash project in Hong Kong. This edition explores the global mobility of marine debris through ocean and wind currents. In 2015, the festival Abandon Normal Devices (AND) invited TRES for a Canal Residency to produce Rough Fish (Manchester, UK).

Their works have been shown in over 20 screenings and art exhibitions in America, Europe and Asia. TRES will represented Mexico at the 13th Biennale of La Havana (2019). They have presented in the Festival Transitio MX_05 Bio mediations (Mexico City, 2013); in the Amsterdam Global City #2: Mexico, WCA World Cinema (Netherlands, 2010), ViBGYOR International Film Festival (India, 2010); Metropolis Biennale (Denmark, 2009); and in the public art section of the XV Festival of Mexico City FMCH (Mexico City, 2009), among others. They have had residencies at Yaddo (2017), elgalpon.espacio (Lima, 2017), Casa Vecina (Mexico City, 2012), La Chambre Blanche (Quebec, 2003), among others.


TRES (Ilana Boltvinik + Rodrigo Viñas)

People have always observed the sky and fantasized about space, we devised ways explored it. We have come a long way in the “conquest” of space. A paradigmatic date is ―of course― October 4, 1957, day the Soviets launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite. Four years later, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to see Earth from afar, in the Vostok 1. Yet this marvelous exploration also brought its counterpart, Vladimir Komarov died in Soyuz 1 in 1967. Since 1957 we have been on the moon, we have orbited Mercury, navigated next to Pluto, NASA’s Insight has landed on Mars. More than 500 humans have been up to 438 consecutive days in space.

Humans master the sky. According to the European Space Agency (updated in 2019) we have launched about 5,450 rockets since 1957(excluding failures); 8,950 satellites have been placed into the Earth’s orbit, of which 1,950 still function. 

LIFE Magazine published “Planet Earth by Dawn’s Early Light” in August 1966, a series of photographs taken by astronauts on the Gemini 10 shuttle, using a 70-mm Maurer camera. The last two pages are amazing. One is a photograph of a discarded black plastic bag floating in space — one of the first pieces of galactic waste? It contained objects that NASA intended to leave behind. And the second a list of ‘space trash’ ― and an Inventory of Hardware in Orbit. “A growing clutter of over 1,200 satellites, burnt out rockets and just plain junk now orbiting the Earth. […]”[1] The photographic series ends with a powerful statement regarding these objects, that someday they could “cause a serious traffic problem in space.”[2] That day has now come. The introduction of Geographies of Trash, positions it beautifully: “At over a million feet above the planet’s surface, the plastic bag and its content seemed categorically unrelated to trash on Earth, more of a time capsule than litter. […Yet] Not even the infinite volume of outer space exempt from the perils of trash.”[3]

Since 1957, around 22,300 debris objects are regularly tracked by Space Surveillance Networks. There are more than 500 break-ups, explosions, collisions, or anomalous events resulting in fragmentation. We are surrounded by waste. At the growth-rate of launches and space exploration, are we to be trapped in our planet, not able to leave because of the collision risk? There are more than 128 million objects from 1mm to 1 cm!

The materiality of the Earth is expanding, we mine resources that will be used to manufacture all types of spacecrafts, many of which will end up in the Earth’s orbits. Mostly on the Object Superpower Orbit (OSO), formerly known as Low Earth Orbit (LEO); on the Taxable Remote Satellite Orbit (TRES), before known as the Geostationary Ring (GEO), and on the Mining Orbit (MO), previously Graveyard Orbit. Will we have to fetch future materials from these orbits considering the depletion of natural resources?

Our newly renamed orbits are now a reflection of the superpowers that these floating objects gain out there. Their vertiginous velocity of 7.8 km/s (28,000 km/h; 17,000 mph) converts them into potent weapons; their decay rate is much lower than on the Earth’s surface, rendering a longer debris life; their collision can become cascades. What other qualities we will emerge are yet to surprise us. We will enter the era of the super-objects.

[1] “Planet Earth by Dawn’s Early Light,” LIFE Magazine, August 5 1966, 28.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ghosn, Rania and El Hadi Jazairy, Geographies of Trash, Actar Publishers, 2015. P.10