My Curated Selection for Axisweb has now been published.
This Curated Selection focuses on artists’ use of rubbish/waste/discards in their practices. I am examining the various materials, processes and terminologies artists employ across disciplines in the context of related anthropological and socio-economic theories of rubbish.
Rubbish is a human construct: no object or material is intrinsically rubbish. The perception of what constitutes rubbish is constantly in a state of flux and dependent on varying cultural values. Human life produces waste that becomes a signifier, even a memento and souvenir of human experience. But waste is also subversive in its formless (informe) and chaotic manifestations, and represents disease and death. Waste is the dark and dirty, hidden or ignored, side of humanity and is also increasing exponentially. Industrialisation and consumerism have produced unprecedented quantities of rubbish and waste is now a major global ecological concern. Reduce, recycle, reuse are the mantras for a more sustainable and safe planet. However this is in fierce opposition to capitalism.
Artists use discarded objects and materials in their practices for various reasons: the availability and negligible cost of used commodities may be a pragmatic consideration, or the materiality of discards may be a primary concern, and using personal rubbish can bring an autobiographical dimension to the work. The found object (objet trouvé) is a common feature in historical and contemporary practice and can often be defined as rubbish, although not automatically synonymous with it. Rubbish has a certain degree of space and time specificity and artists can make use of these characteristics to draw upon or to create specific narratives.