A History of the Work “Estratificación de un Basurero Utópico 1987” [Stratification of a Utopian Landfill 1987] and Recommendations

(Text demanded by the Conservationist at the “Sucursal” gallery, Cali)

Alicia Barney, 2015


First created in Cali in 1987, the piece measured five centimeters in diameter and 1.8 meters in height. It consisted of ten acrylic tubes, artisanally built by heating each piece in a bakery oven. When they were taken out, they were covered in blankets around a PVC pipe and later two of them were joined together to reach the height of 1.8m. The materials were collected at the side of the side wall of a hill road, in Piedras Blancas, close to the Farallones in Cali. The materials were gathered in plastic buckets over six months. The side of the road clearly offered the stratification that I was looking for. Large rocks below followed by smaller stones, sand, and colored earth up to vegetal layer. Later the home garbage was put in it and was sealed with purba (vegetable charcoal) and fine sand, as indicated by the formulas to seal the landfill and thus it is entirely biodegradable so that in five years, it is possible to plant in it. The garbage is entirely biodegradable. That explains the “utopian” in the title. This work was exhibited in Bogotá in what was then known as the Garcés Velázquez gallery. It was later sent to Medellín for the Biennial, where the tubes were temporarily placed against the wall, to be affixed later. I went out to lunch, convinced that nobody would enter, as it was prohibited. However, a French artist on the other side of the dividing wall decided to enter and proceeded to hammer his photos and plants, against the shared wall, knocking down all of my tubes and destroying most of them (because acrylic does break, even though it is stronger than glass).


In 2014 I created a new version, with ten imported tubes, seven centimeters in diameter and two meters in height. These were made by a machine using molds and a vacuum. These tubes have all of the rocks and earth collected in Piedras Blancas that I brought with me when I moved to Bogotá, as I had hoped to do the piece again. Each of these tubes weighs ten kilograms.


In 2015 I created other versions of the ten tubes, two of which were sold to the National Museum and eight of which are in private collection in Cali. These tubes contain the same materials as the previous ones, except for a light-colored soil, which I ran out of. That does not bother me, as the results were entirely to my satisfaction. In this latest version I intentionally used dry or almost-dry trash, in order to decrease the natural (and desirable) combustion that occurs in the trash. As I am the artist and author of these works, I feel at liberty to make the changes that I consider appropriate. These tubes weigh almost twelve kilograms each.



Do not hit them or allow them to fall. Always hang them with the rocks at the bottom.

They can be cleaned with a car-polishing substance called RUBY.

They should be wrapped in surgical cloth which does not scratch them. The appropriate tape can be found in Panamericana stores. It is blue and orange and is made especially for this cloth.

When they are hung, keep in mind their weight and the strength of the wall.

The acrylic yellows when exposed to the sun. Heat can also affect them. It is not an outdoors piece.

It should be treated as a unique piece which will not be reproduced, again.