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Trash Culture

Objects and Obsolescence in Cultural Perspective

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Gillian Pye

In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, concerns about the environment and the future of global capitalism have dominated political and social agendas worldwide. The culture of excess underlying these concerns is particularly evident in the issue of trash, which for environmentalists has been a negative category, heavily implicated in the destruction of the natural world. However, in the context of the arts, trash has long been seen as a rich aesthetic resource and, more recently, particularly under the influence of anthropology and archaeology, it has been explored as a form of material culture that articulates modes of identity construction.
In the context of such shifting, often ambiguous attitudes to the obsolete and the discarded, this book offers a timely insight into their significance for representations of social and personal identity. The essays in the book build on scholarship in cultural theory, sociology and anthropology that suggests that social and personal experience is embedded in material culture, but they also focus on the significance of trash as an aesthetic resource. The volume illuminates some of the ways in which our relationship to trash has influenced and is influenced by cultural products including art, architecture, literature, film and museum culture.

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List of Illustrations ix

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Illustrations 1 ‘Müllmuseum’ in the Cologne waste sorting plant, Germany (1929). Courtesy of The German Federal Environment Agency (Umwelt bundesamt), Dessau/Germany, Erhard Collection, shelf mark ‘F Fotos Papierkörbe, Fuhr- parks, Firma’. 2 Fragments of memory in ‘The Boneyard’, Las Vegas, 2007. 3 The new immersive condition of the ‘Strip’, Las Vegas, 2007. 4 Ghosts, ‘The Boneyard’, Las Vegas, 2007. 5 Ensembles of dereliction, ‘The Boneyard’, Las Vegas, 2007. All images of ‘The Boneyard’ courtesy of the Neon Museum. 6 Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord, Cowperplatz; Design Latz + Partner. Photograph by Christa Panick, Atelier 17. 7 Ilya Kabakov, The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away, 1981–88. 8 Ilya Kabakov in 1978 in front of the painting Orchard, 1978. 9 Ilya Kabakov, Carrying Out the Slop Pail, 1980. 10 Ilya Kabakov, Box with Garbage, 1982. 11 Ilya Kabakov, 1994 drawing for an installation of The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away, detail of washing pad, 1981–88. Images courtesy of E. Kabakov.

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