Arpad Boczen, Advanced School Of Architecture Budapest
TITLE: Sweet Urban Stink in our Ears
ABSTRACT: The focus of my work is a kind of new, personal and obviously biased musical systematization, taking the city’s sonic trash as a starting point and device. In this way I try to answer for the questions along what principles and for what reasons, in how many ways have the “rag-and-bone men” of composing utilized the often unwanted, ignored urban sounds?
You can hear a lot of things through an air shaft. These are all adding to the essence, the character of a house, a block, a street or a district, but they can also be disturbing. Same as the cries of market vendors, church bells, the ringing of trams or the play of street musicians. Even though certain places would lose their faces, maybe even their appeal without them. Shall we eliminate them or preserve them?
According to the view of Murray R. Schafer I also think that noise pollution happens when people do not listen to the sounds carefully enough. In his opinion, noises are sounds we have learnt to ignore. If we know which sounds we want to preserve, amplify or multiply, then even the boring and harmful ones will be distinguishable and it will become clear why they need to be eliminated.
Any sound related to urban life could be valuable as an atmospheric, memory-forming element, and musical material as well. This latter was proven countless times since the birth of urban life. Some only pursue new sounds among noises, but they can also be suitable to share program music content or portray visuals and narratives. Often these intentions determine the way of processing and publishing the sounds the most. I noticed that based on the above, music tracks I have listened to fall into at least one but sometimes more of the following three categories:
– Urban reflections performed with traditional musical instruments
– Urban noise quotes
– Urban sounds used as instruments
This grouping transgresses the boundaries between styles in the extreme. It reveals similarities between medieval motets and avant-garde instrumental pieces, between industrial noise music and hip hop beats. This is the reason why it is difficult to draw up generally valid categories with it. I choose instead to create large baskets into which I can throw pieces and analyze them.
I am going to start a blog with musical examples and theoretical writings under the address http://www.buzafulbe.blogbox.hu in this Summer.
BIOGRAPHY: Architect, Manager, NGO activist, researcher, radio show hoster, DJ. His interests focus on the social, cultural and artistic aspects of architecture and the city. During his work he considers the existing material and spiritual heritage based on value creation, and community-building. He is a member of Advanced School of Architecture Budapest (eszak.org.hu) since 2002 and the most famous hungarian community radio Tilos since 2006 (tilos.hu).
Alice Bradshaw, University of Huddersfield
TITLE: The Museum of Contemporary Rubbish
Abstract: Established in 2010, the Museum of Contemporary Rubbish is dedicated to the collecting, documenting and exhibiting of rubbish from across the world. Initially developed as a participatory public art project for Barnaby Festival, Macclesfield, in 2010, the Museum of Contemporary Rubbish has since expanded into a wider, ongoing project with an online archive of collected rubbish from various event-based performances and installations.
The project is an investigation into the value of objects and the temporality of function and materiality as part of principle concerns in sculpture, consumerism and anthropology. Visitors to the events where the Museum appears at are asked to donate items, sometimes with an exchange process involved, which are then photographed to form the Museum’s online collections defined by the specific event or location. Collections have been made across the UK as well as from Germany, Italy, the US, Cuba. A video montage of over 500 items has been presented internationally with the collections continuing to grow.
Now in 2012, the Museum’s Research Department is further developing the theoretical and contextual rationale behind the project within an academic research framework at the University of Huddersfield. A Practice Based Research Masters commencing October 2012 will focus on defining rubbish within a contemporary art context. The research will survey contemporary art practices involving rubbish, informed by a broad base of interdisciplinary research and seeking to establish a generic working definition of rubbish applicable to contemporary art practice through exploring individual and collective perceptions of objects, material culture and rubbish theories.
BIOGRAPHY: Alice Bradshaw is an artist, curator, researcher and writer based in West Yorkshire. Her practice is concerned with the manipulation and appropriation of mundane objects and materials. She is interested in the mass-produced, anonymous objects of consumerism, form and function of sculpture and design and inherent absurdities of the everyday environment. Alice is currently studying for her Practice Based Research Masters at Huddersfield University with the ongoing project the Museum of Contemporary Rubbish a current major area of her practice based research.
Francisco Calafate-Faria, Goldsmiths
TITLE: The ‘Museum of Rubbish’ in Curitiba: Short-Cycling or Line of Flight?
ABSTRACT: Amidst discarded family pictures, historical relics, obsolete machinery, wedding dresses, deconsecrated money, books and all sorts of curious objects converted from rubbish into museum pieces, this paper discusses the values of waste and the univocal valuation proposed by modern urban recycling.
Curitiba, in South Brazil, is one of the world’s pioneers in modern systems of waste management. In 1989 the municipal government promoted one of the world’s first citywide campaigns for household separation and door-to-door collection of recyclables. Simultaneously, the local authority erected one of the first sanitary landfills in the country as well as a material recycling facility (MRF) to sort the influx of marketable waste. Two years later, in the premises of the MRF an unusual museum opened its doors. The Museum of Rubbish displays thousands of pieces recovered from the city’s waste streams.
Contrarily to the materials circulating through the sorting plant next door, being unloaded in heaps, dropped over conveyor belts, sorted, binned, classified, smashed, packed and transported to smelting or shredding, these objects are motionless. Their apparent stillness may just be a way of eluding their fate. Recycling conveys an image of self-sustained unilinear circularity, manifest in its symbol, in the composition of its word, in the policies that enact it. In fact, the classification of objects and materials as recyclable imposes a monolithic system of valuation based solely on their ability to be included in industrial processes. The word ‘recyclable’ is thus equated to the meaning marketable.
Urban recycling and its globalization can thus be seen as a mechanism of subordinating the waste of capitalist production to capitalism’s own logic. According to David Graeber, “the global market… is, in fact, the single greatest and most monolithic system of measurement ever created, a totalizing system that would subordinate everything on the planet to a single standard of value.” (Graeber, 2001, xi). The particular configuration of recycling as a total system of valuation is thus part of self-fulfilling market-based ideology. It is particularly suited to a theory about human nature based on unique individuals with unlimited desires regulated by society (idem: 257). The image of self-enclosed perfection portrayed by the recycling logo is a materialization of a self-satisfactory solution to the balance between market callousness and ethic atonement. (Cf Graeber 2001: 258 and O’Brien: 2007). This paper will look at the ‘museum of rubbish’ and its objects in search for the possibilities opened by this space of market devaluation/cultural revaluation of waste and the possibilities it opens.
BIOGRAPHY: Francisco Calafate-Faria is a research student at the Department of Sociology in Goldsmiths, University of London. He recently did fieldwork research in the Brazilian city of Curitiba, on organisations of urban scavengers. He is now writing up his thesis looking at the value of waste and recycling through the critical lenses of environmental justice and urban political ecology. He has done research on recycling markets and on communities of skippers and squatters in London. In Portugal, where he lived before, he worked in local cultural policy and wrote for newspapers as well as for art exhibition catalogues.
Bel Deering, University of Brighton
TITLE: Mortal Remains: the perils, pitfalls and pleasures of studying rubbish in a graveyard setting
ABSTRACT: This paper discusses the experience of collecting and analysing data about graveyard visitor behaviours from rubbish and material traces. It outlines how garbology inspired the methods and methodology of a PhD research project into leisure uses of cemeteries and goes on to consider the pros and cons of using rubbish as informant. Starting from the practical aspects of how rubbish and other data were safely collected and recorded, it then follows a trajectory from rubbish identification and classification through to the imaginary geographies of found objects. In this paper I look beyond the blatant narrative of gravestones and memorials, and demonstrate how litter, erosion and accretion can reveal subtle and detailed stories of everyday life, and events both mundane and bizarre. In the graveyards studied, material traces such as cigarette butts and beer cans showed hotspots for after-hours drinking and hanging out. Melted wax, incense and chalked-on symbols hinted at elements of the occult, whilst lipstick kisses and metro tickets represented the allegiance of fans to their chosen idol. The identity of objects, then, gave insights to the interior world of the visitor, as did the location and manner of littering. I describe how litterers and graffiti artists showed ‘socialised’ anti-social behaviour in the graveyard and discuss the norms and abnorms of behaviour that emerged from the world of rubbish. The curious world of the living in the home of the dead is evoked through audience engagement with found objects, which tell their own tales of pitfalls and pleasure in the cemetery.
BIOGRAPHY: Bel Deering has just completed her PhD, titled ‘Over their dead bodies: a study of leisure and spatiality in cemeteries’ at the School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Brighton. Recent publications include the chapters ‘From anti-social to X-rated: exploring the social diversity of the cemetery’ in Deathscapes: Spaces for Death, Dying, Mourning and Remembrance, edited by Avril Maddrell and James Sidaway and ‘In the dead of night: a nocturnal exploration of fear in the graveyard’ in The Power of Death edited by Maria Jose Blanco and Ricarda Vidal (forthcoming).
Sarah Carney, University of Sussex
TITLE: ‘Sometimes a tampon in a banana skin is just a tampon in a banana skin’1 — Don DeLillo: keeping trash trash because beauty is truth and truth is death
ABSTRACT: David Evans1 claims Don DeLillo’s treatment of trash is material rather than symbolic. ‘DeLillo insists’, he says, that ‘we pay attention to the resistant and repulsive thing itself’1. Entropy would lay everything material, ultimately, to waste. Trash is the end-product of the consumer cycle but also that of the cycle of life. While DeLillo uses waste to reveal the suppressed realities of consumer society and a superficial cultural existence, Evans is correct because, for DeLillo, waste is death.
Trash, according to Evans1, escapes the cycle of production because it no longer has utility. This alienates it from the homogeneity of the system which then gives it particularity and identity. Trash is therefore synonymous with both identity and death. Evans claims that DeLillo refuses, as do the artists he depicts, to turn trash into a more ‘intellectually palatable’ metaphor, because to recycle trash would be to restore its utility and reintroduce it into the system they wish with their art to resist1.
It could be said that fear of mortality and our desire to transcend it have been the impetus for religion and art. But Walter Benjamin2 suggests a reader looks to the characters of a novel to derive the ‘meaning of life’, and that that meaning is death. In a ‘postmodern society’ where, as Leonard Wilcox3 puts it, ‘simulacra’ and ‘images and electronic representations replace direct experience’, entropy, waste, death may be the only fact of reality of which we can be sure. But despite this, Benjamin2 points out that consciousness of death has declined in modern times.
This presentation shows Don DeLillo’s treatment of trash to aid his fulfilment of his Benjaminian novelistic duty to take himself and his characters on a quest for identity which can only be achieved through acknowledgement and acceptance of mortality. But in these ‘postmodern’ times, DeLillo has first to invert the suppressed underworld of our collective denial. DeLillo exposes the way we use popular culture and consumerism to distract us from the big, important questions of life and reveals the ultimate conspiracy in which we all collude, the secret hidden in plain sight, like our landfills of waste. DeLillo uses the fact of our own waste to tell us of our death, reminding us, in the words of the Lenny Bruce character in Underworld4, that: ‘We’re all gonna’ die’.
BIOGRAPHY: Sarah Carney is taking time out from her career, which primarily involved supporting doctors’ postgraduate medical education and continuing professional development, in order to undertake a part-time MA in Literature and Philosophy at Sussex University. Sarah previously studied part-time, while simultaneously working full-time, gaining a BA Hons in English Literature (First Class) at the Open University and an MA in Charity Management (Distinction) at St Mary’s University College. Sarah’s main interests at postgraduate level, thus far, have been in Richard Rorty’s ‘irony’, religion and mysticism in ‘postmodern’ American poetry, and Don DeLillo.
Amy Carson, University of Leeds
TITLE: The deconstruction of menstruation – with a focus on the ‘feminine-hygiene’ culture in the West
ABSTRACT: Some research has been done in global health on menstruation, mostly outside the West, demonstrating that many girls in less developed countries drop out of school after they begin to menstruate for the first time (Sommer, 2009). Although it has been noted that this is due to numerous factors, trials have begun to take menstrual management and basic hygiene facilities to areas lacking them. Some of these had unexpected results, demonstrating that there is little impact from menstruation on school attendance and that the provision of “better sanitary products” has no impact on closing the small attendance gap previously found (Oster & Thornton, 2011). What is considered menstrual management and hygiene in one place may be non-transferable in that context. This may be due to a failure to understand the social and sexual significance of menarche and menstruation in that environment. Mainstream menstrual management now critiqued in the West by third-wave feminism, environmentalists and anti-consumerists alike, being proposed to be one solution to the ‘problems’ of menstruation globally may not be the best answer. Much of the critique lies with concerns of the “FemCare” industry.1 Prioritising profit over environmental and personal health impacts, using bleaching and non-biodegradable products, raising the costs of whilst terming them ‘essential’ as well as marketing a distortion of menstruation itself (Chris Bobel, 2006). When transferring these mainstream methods, unspoken values are also being transferred. However important it is to ensure health equity is achieved worldwide, is it right to suggest the way we hide and regulate our menstruation without first understanding or asking what it is that occurs here at present? Furthermore, is it not also vital to look at the system we are suggesting to impose onto a place and reflect whether this is functioning for the population in question, i.e. the menstruators? Like many aspects of global health – a local ‘problem’ has been identified and an idea of how to improve it is just transferred from somewhere assumed to be more developed, without an understanding of the local beliefs and practices. However much I rally for the support of menstruators worldwide and advocate for a higher recognition of what, for me has essentially been neglected, I also feel it is mistaken to assume a universal menstruation. Even between individuals, questions of what is needed are debatable. It is a case where there will be multiple answers to what should be done locally or globally for menstruators, and ideally it should be told by them.
BIOGRAPHY: I grew up in a small village in North Wales, surrounded by beauty and nature. Music and dancing playing ever important roles from my family as well as living from the land as much as possible. I chose a different route in school and got immersed in science and travelling. When I arrived at university I was shocked by those that were studying medicine, seeming to be more interested in drinking than caring for the sick. I started questioning the medical establishment as a whole, going head first into activism with such organisations as Medsin and Green Action. Confused by what I saw as clear answers to problems in the world being unchangeable due to profit, I decided to study Global Health to gain a greater perspective of how the world functions.
Munira Cheema, University of Sussex
TITLE: Assessing the power of Trash TV in Pakistani television culture
ABSTRCT: As part of the project analysing `the change in Pakistani television culture in relation to gender, this paper shall examine how certain genres considered as trash or dirt of television have contributed in offering sites/spaces for discourse and empowerment. I shall begin by identifying the genres that offer such spaces where gender-based discussions take place, and shall address the question of `why the producers have introduced such genres/spaces and how it is linked to the system of ratings in Pakistani television industry. The openness with which these genres attend to the gender-based issues (such as incest/adultery/domestic violence) may not conform to the Islamic etiquettes and cultural norms, which is why; it becomes crucial for this project to look at how female viewers have responded to such trends in Pakistani television culture. Such genres offer spaces where female viewers can actively engage in discussions on issues of private nature as well take their personal/intimate issues to the public medium, which makes me more curious about how such formats that are apparently non-serious and often produced with an intention to draw maximum ratings for the channels, can redefine the public/private distinction in Pakistan. Another line of inquiry in this paper shall address the potential as well as limitation of such sensational content in engaging the viewers and creating `public’.
BIOGRAPHY: DPhil candidate, Media and Cultural Studies, University of Sussex
Natacha Chevalier, University of Sussex
TITLE: When waste was trash: The thrifty 30s and 40s
ABSTRACT: Before trash became a component of modern life, a theory, a form of art, a cultural, ecological, sociological and ethical issue, what was it? It was not……… because it was not allowed to be. This paper will examine the official and social approach, discourse and perception of wastes in the 30s and 40s through the Second World War propaganda and campaigns against it and through various publications created to help any woman to become a good, efficient and thrifty housewife.
Through the examination and the analysis of contemporary material such as Make do and mend, a publication from the Board of Trade in 1942, other governmental campaign materials such as posters, books such as Home Management and The Home Book as well as some cookbooks published during the 30s and during the war, we will discover the world of thrift, recycling and reusing which was a necessity as well as a way of life in a consumers society in its very early stage. This examination will be supported by examples and practical (and sometimes very unpractical) advices about household and food found in the material as well as some reactions to them.
Beginning with Second World War, we will see that waste, before becoming unethical, has also been unpatriotic and was even seen as a form of sabotage. The war against waste being a part of the Kitchen Front, everyone was supposed to fight against it, but we will see that the burden of this patriotically fight was, unsurprisingly, on women’s shoulders. Then we will see that this war against waste and its burden was indeed not a novelty for many of them. Previous to the 40s and before being a national duty, the war against waste was a moral one: waste was a sin and thrift became a virtue, once again with housewife on the front line.
From books received before their wedding to governmental publications and propaganda, we will see how housewife were taught how to manage their home in the right way: with a wise eye on domestic economy. From necessity fashion to fishbone into butterfly, this paper will talk about a time when it was trash to waste.
BIOGRAPHY: After a Bachelor in History and Sociology passed in Geneva (Switzerland) and a Master in Contemporary History passed at the University of Birmingham, I am now doing a PhD in Contemporary History under the supervision of professors Ian Gazeley and Claire Langhamer at the University of Sussex. The PhD tackles people’s food habits and their changes during the Second World War and is based mainly on the Mass Observation Archives. During my studies in Geneva, I followed a seminar about the sociology of waste while during my Master year In Birmingham I did follow another one on globalization. Both seminars ended with essays on the subject of ecology, wastes, chemical use, and so on.
Jeannie Driver, Independent Artist
TITLE: From SPIKE IT to HARD GRAPH: The Waste Remains
ABSTRACT: Jeannie Driver’s approach as an artist is to create relevant artworks that act as a signifier and stimulant for the viewer to re-consider common actions and issues that encourage a re-examination of everyday issues and common experiences with a view to reconsider both the individual and collective implications.
This approach to making work was developed having being heavily influenced by process based work and what has now been termed ‘relational’ projects.
Jeannie’s past commissions, residences and artist initiated projects have use this approach on projects that focus on walking, cleaning or on specific buildings and places that hold collective and individual memories and experiences. For the past 5 years Jeannie has focused her work on issues of paper. Paper, a ubiquitous material that almost everyone has their own relationship with. Paper embodies a range of emotional responses to notions of ‘paper-work’, from frustration and irritation at necessary bureaucracy to celebratory feelings of achievement to the printed document. Paper can embody any information and therefore it is the materiality of paper that in the end is the unifying product to collective experiences. It is this materiality of paper that Jeannie’s work highlights, making references to quantity, scale individual and global implications of a resource.
This presentation will take you through the journey of Jeannie’s practice from her relational SPIKE IT Project that located 6ft spike files in 7 different offices as interventions to explore issues of work, flow with office workers as participants and audiences. The presentation will explore outcomes of the residency and how the visualization of waste impacted on Jeannie’s practice and subsequent research at a waste recycling facility.
Jeannie’s presentation will discuss her thinking and use of waste paper as a material and commodity including recent works for the exhibition Ubiquitous Materials and installations as part of her HARD GRAPH series of works
BIOGRAPHY: Contemporary Artist Jeannie Driver creates installations and sculptures from waste (A4) paper contributed by audiences. Jeannie’s latest exhibition, Ubiquitous Materials, curated by Dr Outi Remes was exhibited at South Hill Park, Bracknell Gallery. February 2012. Jeannie has worked collaboratively and individually on a variety of socially engaged interdisciplinary projects for over a decade. Awards include a years funding from the Arts Councils to develop the SPIKE IT project including residencies in 7 offices exploring issues of work, flow and waste. Works emulating from the residencies continue to be exhibited in contemporary art galleries in London and in the regions. Jeannie holds a MA with Distinction and a 1st class BA in Fine Art from University of Portsmouth.
Michael Ezban, Harvard University Graduate School of Design
TITLE: The Trash Heap of History
ABSTRACT: As the discipline of landscape architecture lays claim to waste spaces and infrastructure, municipal solid waste facilities in cities around the globe have been targeted for design interventions such as landfill mining, energy production, brownfield remediation and urban redevelopment. Recent projects have sought to integrate multiple functions and constituencies at waste sites. Most famously, Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island is set to become the largest New York City park developed since 1888. Reclamation of this type needs historical models, and Monte Testaccio, an ancient landfill in Rome, is a useful precedent for contemporary theory and practice. It is an exemplar of both the transcultural practice of manufacturing topography through urban processes and the contemporary aspiration to transform waste spaces into civic terrain.
This study incorporates research from several disciplines, original notational drawings, and personal observations from three months of site reconnaissance. My goal is to identify particular processes at Monte Testaccio that reflect ongoing contemporary approaches to landfill reclamation, identify new approaches, and illustrate challenges inherent in these site transformations. Monte Testaccio offers two models for landfill reclamation that demonstrate the potential agency of landfills in the creation of resilient public spaces. The first model involves the aggregation of many uses and constituencies on a closed metropolitan landfill in order to increase its cultural value. Nowhere else in the world can you find a landfill that has fostered such a heterogeneous mix of events, interests and users for so many centuries. The second model that Monte Testaccio provides is one of dispersal—landfills can be troves of valuable material and potential energy that can be mined to prompt local and distant industrial ecologies and urban processes over time.
As contemporary governments and citizens ask that reclaimed landfill sites be many things to many people — energy producers, social nodes, memorials — and interface with local infrastructure, we should turn to the historical precedent of Monte Testaccio. Monte Testaccio’s longevity and vitality make it an ideal model of what a landfill can become: an agent of civic engagement and an urban catalyst.
BIOGRAPHY: Michael’s work engages the production of waste and contamination remediation as generative urban processes. In 2010 he was a Visiting Scholar in Architecture at the American Academy in Rome where he conducted research on the ancient Roman landfill Monte Testaccio. Michael was honored with a University of Michigan Thesis award for design research on transforming abandoned gas stations through phytoremediation. In 2012 Vandergoot Ezban Studio’s design for dredging regimes as adaptive public infrastructure will be published in the book “Third Coast Atlas,” edited by Charles Waldheim, Clare Lyster, and Mason White.
Simon Hobbs, University of Portsmouth
TITLE: Antichrist as the Culturally Schizophrenic Artefact
ABSTRACT: Within cinema, formal and aesthetic tropes are constantly being recycled and reused in order to create nostalgia, alternative readings or completely new meaning. This paper seeks to address this culture of filmic recycling by exploring the use of typically low cultural formal and aesthetic devices within modern art cinema.
Techniques such as extreme violence and hard-core authentic sex have been marginalised within legitimate cinematic cultures, and take residence within the confines of low cultural filmic modes. This marginalisation via both critical and public discourse has given depiction of extreme violence and hard-core sex a forbidden and dirty quality, consequently resulting in the banishment of a narrative that utilises the aforementioned motifs to a ‘trash’ quarantine.
However, certain sectors of contemporary art film have become defined through the appropriation of exploitation and pornography formal and aesthetic techniques within narratives that conform the established modes of art cinema. The cinema of directors such as Lars von Trier, Gaspar Noë and Catherine Breillat have recycled transgressive ‘trash’ techniques previously only seen within the marginalised cinematic industries to create new meanings within modern art film artefacts.
This paper seeks to investigate a single case study, Lars von Trier’s 2009 film Antichrist, and assess the manner in which the employment of low cultural aesthetic and thematic motifs affect the understanding of the film within both cinematic cultural and the wider public sphere. Antichrist has become infamous for its violence and authentic sex, form the sequence of monochrome intercourse within the films prelude to the female castration within its climax. The paper will firstly assess the dual mentality that defines the films thematic and aesthetic tone. Through a mix of classical art film modes and a exploitation aesthetics, the film reuses ‘trash’ aesthetics and infuses them with new meaning and relevance.
In addition to this, the paper will then consider how the marketing direction, a more specifically the DVD aesthetics design, continues the propagation of ‘trash’ to create a film with a schizophrenic filmic identity that straddles the exploitation and art film arenas. By textually deconstruction the Chelsea Films DVD sleeve for Antichrist’s DVD and Blu Ray release, the paper will provide evidence ion how the film transcends its high cultural positioning and manifests a self-aware ‘trash’ appeal. Overall, the paper will seek how the appropriation of established ‘trash’ and low cultural filmic norms are understood by the critical and public discourse and this subsequently manifests within the films cultural placement.
BIOGRAPHY: My name is Simon Hobbs and I am currently a first year PhD student at the University of Portsmouth. My research area is concerned with the marketing of extreme art film and the ramifications this has on the films cultural identity. The main topic include taste slippage, an analysis of paratexts and an assessment of historical overview of the application of exploitation filmic techniques in the marketing and formal delivery of traditional art film. I have previously delivered two papers at internal conferences. The first was entitled “Irreversible: The Textual Transformations of Modern Art Film” which concerned my theory of the ‘Currency of Disgust’, and the second was entitled The Generic Implications of Artificial Eye’s Michael Haneke Collection.
Chris Lloyd, Goldsmiths
TITLE: Hurricane Katrina and the South’s disposable (trashy) bodies
ABSTRACT: My paper looks to a variety of texts that have responded to Hurricane Katrina, the storm that hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005. I want to follow the work of Patricia Yaeger who writes, in Dirt and Desire (2000), that the South can be seen as ‘made out of repudiated, throwaway bodies that mire the earth: a landscape built over and upon the melancholic detritus, the disposable bodies denied by white culture’. In light of this notion of the ‘throwaway’, I look to a constellation of images and scenes from a breadth of post-Katrina texts to show the ways in which primarily black bodies were seen as ‘trash’ as the floodwaters rose and then receded.
Yaeger’s thesis finds corollary with the post-Katrina criticism of Henry A. Giroux, for example, who argues that the storm revealed a biopolitics of African American disposability: black people were cast as throwaway by the city, the government and even the media. I ground this also in the recent work of Judith Butler who argues for an understanding of life as ‘precarious’ and ‘vulnerable’; asking pertinently (in the title of her book) ‘When is life grievable?’ This biopolitical sphere cannot but testify, furthermore, to the long-standing racist structure of the South. Disposable blackness is nothing new in the region. Hurricane Katrina, in effect, illuminated the continuum of racial inequality still visible in America’s Deep South.
Beginning with a few examples of photography documented in Spike Lee’s film When the Levees Broke, I suggest ways of viewing and ‘apprehending’ them (Judith Butler’s term), properly and ethically; that is, seeing their regional visual legacy. Then, I look to the most visible examples of black and racially-Other bodies seen as trash or throwaway in various literatures produced after the storm. From Jesmyn Ward’s recent Salvage the Bones in which a poor Mississippi family are stripped of the very little they had to begin with; to James Lee Burke’s The Tin-Roof Blowdown and short story ‘Jesus Out to Sea’ where bodies are littered across a crime-filled city; through to Dave Eggers’ non-fiction book Zeitoun in which a Syrian American man, helping those stranded in the city, was detained for nothing more than his skin-colour. All of these texts foreground and detail the disposable, discarded bodies of the South, still seen as trash in the twenty-first century.
BIOGRAPHY: I am currently in the second year of my PhD at Goldsmiths, focusing on the literature and culture of the American South in the twenty-first century. Discussing matters of regionalism that are often overlooked or written-off by contemporary post-Southern scholarship, I analyse historical fictions of slavery, culture after Hurricane Katrina, and the Southern Gothic for example, and make connections between modern works and their Southern roots that much criticism fails to acknowledge fully. Predominantly through frameworks of cultural memory, I argue that modern texts revive and recall particularly regional cultural memories to attest to the continuing legacies of regional identity today.
James MacDowell, University of Warwick
TITLE: So Bad it’s Good: Value, Intention, and the Aesthetics of Ironic Appreciation
ABSTRACT: A ‘trash’ cultural artifact valued ironically for being ‘so bad it’s good’ (SOBIG)1 is championed via a specific form of interpretative competence which rewards perceived incompetence. Scholarship on such artifacts – be it film, music, literature, or more recently online video – has unsurprisingly tended to focus on the important issue of (fan) reception, pursuing the ways in which such interpretations and evaluations reveal more about the reader of culture than they do about the (seemingly fluid) value of the cultural object itself. What I will suggest in this paper, however, is that cultural objects widely praised for being ‘so bad they’re good’ are also capable of prompting a reconsideration of two very old, but vital, questions for aesthetics – and not necessarily in the manner one might imagine.
Academic discussions of evaluation and SOBIG culture (particularly ‘badfilm’, about which a significant body of scholarly work now exists)2 regularly argue that such artifacts confirm the irreducibly mutable, historically-delimited or socially-determined nature of aesthetic value. Similarly, it is often claimed that the ironic fan practice of conscious counter-interpretation demonstrates that the intentions of the reader invariably prevail over the intentions of the ‘author’. I argue, by contrast, that (1) SOBIG objects offer a robust challenge to the assertion that intrinsic aesthetic value can be nothing but a sociohistorical illusion, and (2) they highlight how fundamental assumptions about intention are to the interpretation of any cultural artifact.
Through an analysis of the contemporary badfilm The Room (2003), as well as certain ‘viral’ videos hailed and spread ironically for their inadvertent hilarity, I will suggest that one may judge a SOBIG object ‘bad’ on more stable grounds than mere sociohistorically-determined taste, and that this badness is dependent in such cases upon the demonstrable nature of (failed) intentions. Finally, I shall present some reasons why, even if possessing little intrinsic aesthetic value, SOBIG culture can still nonetheless offer significant instrumental value.
BIOGRAPHY: James MacDowell completed his PhD in Film & Television Studies at the University of Warwick in 2011. He sits on the editorial board of Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism, and has published articles in journals such as The New Review of Film & Television Studies, CineAction, and The Hitchcock Annual. He is currently writing a monograph for Edinburgh University Press about the Hollywood ‘happy ending’, and researching the nature and uses of irony in film.
Owen Parry, Goldsmiths
TITLE: Performing Refuse / Refusing Performance
ABSTRACT: This presentation explores the curious relationship between contemporary performance practices and refuse prompted by Twinkle, a fictional non-expert, who anxious about “what performance art is exactly”, consigns performance research to: “I don’t know… some weird shit”. It explores the necessary role of non-knowledge in creative research, and the de-stabilising affects produced by the uncertainty of performance, the rigour of research, and the inevitability of shit. I am interested in how something that eludes naming is automatically relegated to the status of shit, and how this unfathomable universalising shit can move performance (and research about performance) beyond the confines of policed legitimacies and singular intention, unhinge its vexed and troubled histories as ‘runt of the litter of contemporary art’ (Phelan) or victim of ‘anti-theatrical prejudice’ (Barrish) in philosophical discourse, and put performance to work more generatively as refuse, or think ecologically about what it has been doing as refuse all along. Waste performs, but for John Frow ‘waste is [also] the degree zero of value, or it is the opposite of value, or it is whatever stands in excess of value systems grounded in use.’ What interesting problems emerge when extending performance’s relation to waste and “… weird shit” at a time when it has ‘increased resonance as a culturalphenomenon, and as a concept and metaphor in critical discourse’? (Performance Matters) Given the inherent relation between performance and refuse in ontological debates about its refusal to remain as ‘performance becomes itself through disappearance’, (Phelan) or in contrast that ‘performance remains’ (Schneider) in the traces, documents, photos, videos, writings, and memories it produces – might thinking about performance in terms of cultural value be a limiting and unsympathetic move altogether? If refuse performs, what means other than cultural value may it afford?
BIOGRAPHY: My practice based PhD project Refuse Performance explores the formation and destruction of value in contemporary live art and performance practices at Goldsmiths, University of London and as Researcher on Performance Matters, a three-year creative research project between Live Art Development Agency, Goldsmiths, and University of Roehampton. (AHRC) I co-edited an issue of Dance Theatre Journal on Trash and Contemporary Performance, (2011) was a Researcher on Trashing Performance, (2011) co-organised a Trash Salon (2011) and Salon des Refusés (2012) and the forthcoming P o P public programme exploring and exploding the Potentials of Performance (Oct 2012) www.owengparry.com
Tracey Potts, University of Nottingham
TITLE: Your own Personal Landfill: Stuff, Matter and the Myth of Eco-decluttering
ABSTRACT: In the era of what Jean Baudrillard has termed ‘atrocious uselessness’, the turn to environmentalist recommendations for living and working appears entirely reasonable. The manifestation of eco advice within the scripts of lifestyle intermediaries and in the blogosphere seems, in the context of urgent discussions around climate change and resource exhaustion, benign and, more, overdue.
Far from expressing sustained eco-logical concerns, however, much of the guidance around consumption coming from lifestyle media (from programmes such as The Life Laundry to, more recently, Hoarders) together with websites such as Green and Tidy is profoundly contradictory, especially in relation to questions around the use and disposal of material goods. The short-circuiting in such advice – mainly around the issue of stuff – can be read to evidence Mark Fisher’s observations regarding the disjuncture between, on the one hand, ‘environmental catastrophe [as the Lacanian] Real’ of capitalist culture and, on the other, its simulacra: ‘green’ lifestyle. While environmentalism operates as the ultimate alibi of injunctions to inhabit minimalist space and to reduce, reuse and recycle, this is at odds with the systematic redefinition of clutter as a species of defilement and, worse, of personality disorder. The tendency to focus on stuff rather than matter and to proffer space-clearing as environmental practice serves to undermine the green credentials of those who claim to know how we might live a ‘low impact life’.
This paper will, then, seek to exacerbate the contradiction of, to borrow from one blogger, ‘light green’ living, arguing that, ultimately, the logic of decluttering is based in the idea of flushing material goods through space, and, hence, is little more than a kind of Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) environmentalism or green consumerism. Further, drawing upon the work of Jane Bennett, Gregory Bateson and Tim Ingold, the potential of vital materialism will be explored as an alternative to the notion of environmental friendliness, with the aim of privileging entanglement over separation as a viable ecological way of being.
BIOGRAPHY: Tracey Potts is Lecturer in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies and co-director of the Centre for Critical Theory at the University of Nottingham. Her research is concentrated in the areas of material culture, aesthetics and everyday life with an especial focus on the conjunction of taste, class, space and affect. She has published on kitsch (including articles on gnomes and floral tributes), interior design, clutter, and procrastination. Her book, Kitsch! Cultural Politics and Taste – co-written with Ruth Holliday – will be published this summer. Aside from continuing to work on kitsch, she is engaged in major projects on the materialities of information, RMS Titanic and Blackpool Illuminations.
Claire Reddleman, Goldsmiths
TITLE: “Modern and contemporary route-finding”: reactivating dead labour as spheres of appearance in ‘Pennine Street 2012’
ABTSTACT: Pennine Street 2012 is a cartographic art experiment, involving walking from the city of London (UK), at Aldgate, to the Olympic area at Stratford. This route has been designated ‘High Street 2012’ as part of the Olympic spectacle. Pennine Street 2012 comprised of three public walks. Small groups walked with the aim of reading this urban route as the Pennine Way, a long-distance path running between the Peak District and the Scottish Borders.
The walks aimed to offer a way of experiencing and critiquing both the route as an urban place, and the route as a scene of the re-activation of dead labour and dead capital through and by the movement of new capital. This paper will explore the potential imaginaries of Pennine Street and their construction through appropriating texts and re-forming their meanings in the new (con)text.
The Marxist philosopher Alfred Sohn-Rethel proposes that two spheres of reality emerge from the separation of exchange and use in the exchange abstraction. Pennine Street may be usefully considered in terms of its proposing two imaginaries, or spheres, to be read, thought and experienced together. The primary imaginary is High Street 2012, layered as it is onto the concrete reality of the city space through its nomination, its naming as an entity, a route. This primary imaginary is therefore already multi-layered itself, involving the empirical experience of the senses in the city space: seeing buildings, people, roads, traffic; hearing cars, roadworks; being aware of the feeling of walking and talking; and the fully rich sensory dimension of being in this concrete place. Pennine Street 2012 carves out a space between the spheres of capital and of appearance. Through the reading of multiple additional narratives, in the form of the participants’ readings, the idea and power of the single, official narrative is disrupted, and discarded narratives are brought back into possibility.
The Pennine Way and High Street 2012 may be usefully read as instances of the abstracting process of deriving categories from concrete reality, with Pennine Street as a further degree of abstraction from its two sources. Pennine Street enacts a third sphere of operation in which we engage with the mystifying appearances generated by capital, through its appropriation of dead (‘congealed’) labour which has been discarded by older capital. Seeing anything of the first sphere, capital, from where we are in the second sphere, appearances, is very difficult, and is continually mitigated against by the ongoing generation of appearances by capital. Pennine Street acts as a third space of explicit appearance.
BIOGRAPHY: Claire Reddleman is a PhD researcher in Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, working on real abstraction and its operation in visual art forms, particularly cartographic and textual art. This research grows out of the philosophy of Karl Marx and Alfred Sohn-Rethel. Her Masters degree was in Art and Politics from Goldsmiths, with a thesis on counterpoints to hegemony in the cartographic art of Joyce Kozloff, Grayson Perry and Bill Fontana. Her background is in fine art and history of art and architecture, and she is also a practicing photographic artist, who has made works concerning the deconstruction of text and Orientalism in the context of the Iraq war.
TITLE: Eliot’s Exhalations
ABSTRACT: As a literature that contemplates the leftovers of literature, the poetry of T. S. Eliot has gained some of its distinction through the identification and mobilisation of waste, both as an object of writing and a critical concept used to interpret that writing. At an immediate level, Eliot’s poetry is composed of substances spent, discards of image and text that seem at once to achieve and to resist the condition of absolute redundancy; there appears no end “To the drift of the sea and the drifting wreckage” (CPP, 186). But it is not simply a literature dominated by images of discarded things, nor is it simply a literature about discarded things, but a literature that seems uncannily aware of what remains of its composition, a poetics that positions Eliot’s work among the residues of his texts and countless others. And, whilst this poetics of residua absorbs within it a whole range of modernist mantras – to ‘make it new’ and to ‘make it difficult’ – it keenly pursues one other, less observed imperative: to ‘make it waste.’ This final imperative, though partially achieved and rarely acknowledged, accounts for the difficulty of Eliot’s writing as a productive and reflexive effect of waste words. With reference to the textual genetics of Eliot’s work, ‘“expired, exhaled. expired. exhaled”, this paper will introduce a new approach to reading waste that seeks to highlight the relationship between the objects described by Eliot and the objects and processes necessary for that description, the drafts, notebooks and ephemera set aside for a ‘final’ version to emerge. The condition of waste in this literature is therefore twofold; waste lies in the images of declaration and in the material conditions for that declaration to be made public, legible, cherished or discarded.
BIOGRAPHY: William Viney completed his PhD in cultural studies and humanities at The London Consortium, University of London. An editor for Pluto Press and at Pod Academy, his research concerns philosophies of waste in sculpture, literature and architecture. Aspects of this work can be found in Precipitate, Material World and Joyce Studies in Italy.