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Trash Culture

Objects and Obsolescence in Cultural Perspective


Edited By 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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Kevin Hetherington - The Ruin Revisited 15


Kevin Hetherington The Ruin Revisited Everywhere, it seems, a fascination with the remains of the past, with its remainders, is in evidence. But what happens to ruins in this process is less certain. Sometimes discarded if they are of little interest or dressed in the garb of annotation, indexing and interpretation if they have some appeal, ruins appear to be visible only if they can be written within a heritage story. Ruins now have conservation and heritage written all over them (see Miles 1997; Dicks 2003). Societies now rarely just tear down the past to make way for the new as they did in earlier, more progress-oriented times. Now when a part of the built environment needs regeneration because of decline or because of new opportunities, one will often find a museum, heritage trail, or some kind of visitor centre dedicated to interpreting the past at the heart of it. The success of the Guggenheim museum in transforming the old declining industrial city of Bilbao is the often cited case study for suc- cess. The regeneration of Berlin after reunification is another (Till 2005). But there are many other cases. No doubt, the economic crisis of 2008–9 will have an impact on this process of managing the past for a while; slowing down investment in regeneration and development schemes in some places, squeezing public funding in the arts and heritage sector, and creating new areas of decline, new discarded spaces, in others. But once recovery comes, however slow, partial...

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