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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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Kathleen James-Chakraborty - Recycling Landscape: Wasteland into Culture 77


Kathleen James-Chakraborty Recycling Landscape: Wasteland into Culture How do we define trash and how do we decide what to recycle? The issue is larger than whether if we wash out a glass bottle or an empty can of soda, we can recoup a deposit upon returning it to the shop or drop it into a separate green bin. While most discussions focus on the scale of household garbage, I want to consider obsolescence on an enormous scale, that of the re-use of industrial installations and the larger landscape into which they are set. I am particularly interested in the intersection of aesthetics, policy, and public opinion that controls their fate after the purpose for which they were created has expired. How does that which has been understood to be trash become the valued repository of cultural memory and appreciated as art? What are the limits of such a transformation? I will focus on a single example: the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, a park in the northern part of the German city of Duisburg (see Figure 6). The Meiderich blast furnace on the site operated by Thyssen closed in 1985, leaving behind the usual industrial pollution.1 Designed in 1991 by Peter Latz and Partner, the 750-acre park is the crown jewel of a larger ef fort to revitalise the Ruhrgebiet, Germany’s largest rustbelt, by converting out- moded industrial installations along its northern edge into avant-garde cultural artefacts (see Hober/Ganser 1999; Lee 1999; Gunßer 1999, as well as the special editions of Garten...

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