Category Archives: Aesthetics

A floating cabinet of contaminated curiosities launches 6/28

Artist Paul Lloyd Sargent launches Artificial Corridors, a project to pilot a 19-foot, open-hulled powerboat, to navigate across the New York State Canal System and down the Hudson River, and to transport a cargo comprised of remnants of the Great Lakes Basin’s toxic legacy.

CFP: The Aesthetics of Trash

Are there ways–through art–to acknowledge or conceptualize waste that would do more than celebrate such reuse or recycling? How can artists, philosophers, theorists, activists, and others produce new ways to acknowledge or envision events and phenomena like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, radioactive wastelands like Fukushima or Bikini Atoll, the animal wastes of feedlots, the water wastes of fracking, or the mountains of trash produced by consumer culture?

Special issue of Green Letters on junk and composting

Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism is a journal that explores the relationship between literary, artistic and popular culture and concepts of the environment. They are concerned with aesthetics, metaphors, representations and rhetorics of waste in their newest special issue dedicated to “junk and composting.”

The visual culture of post-disaster high water marks

f you look at enough photographs of disasters, you will see people posing with high water marks. It is a genre of photography onto itself: over and over, they will point to the mark, put their bodies in front of the mark, or photograph the high water line alone. This post explores the possible roles that the visual culture of post-disaster high water marks play, especially given the prevalence of the genre across disasters, geography, and time.

Bibliography on Noise Pollution

If waste is, broadly defined, the externalities of social and technical systems, then noise is a quintessential form of waste. Noise pollution is disturbing or excessive sound that may harm humans or animals, and, not surprisingly, it usually emits from industrial technologies. Perhaps because it exceeds the material fetish of most pollution laws, it wasn’t until the 1970s (1975 in Portland, to be exact) that U.S. governments promoted noise from a “nuisance” to f a full fledged environmental problem like its material cousins in the pollution panoply. Yet, noise remains a generally neglected source for the theorization of waste, pollution, and harm. If you are interested in remedying the situation, here is a bibliography for you:

Arrested Decay: The Exorcism of an American Ghost Town

Bodie, California is a ghost town. Or rather, it was a ghost town—now it is a historic park and tourist destination. It endures in a state of “arrested decay,” meaning that nothing can be newly constructed onsite, but neither are its standing buildings permitted to deteriorate any further. The state of California has suspended the town in its process of ruination, stabilizing its entropy and halting its decline. If its decay is forestalled, its grounds rigorously maintained and its aesthetic carefully cultivated, can it be called a ghost town any longer?

The Decompository at the Arnold Arboretum

Most Arboretums don’t put their dirt, waste, and decomposition on visitor maps. In July, via a workshop on Digital STS at Boston’s Arnold Arboretum, we fixed that. We created “The Decompository” for the Arboretum. The Decompository cataloged the entire, often dirty, frequently smelly, certainly decomposing urban ecology of the park could be made more apparent for visitors and researchers.

Ruin Memories Portfolio online

Numerous studies have focused on modernity’s destructive effect on traditional life- worlds, the desertion of villages and the ruination of rural areas. However, the fact that the modern condition also produces its own ruined materialities, its own marginalized pasts, is less spoken about. Since the 19th century, mass-production, consumerism and thus cycles of material replacement […]
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Inventive repair, or, the aesthetics of material hacks

Before disposability, before planned obsolescence, and even before mass production really entered its modern phase, there reined a different kind of material relation with broken objects. Waste historian Susan Strasser calls this ethos “stewardship,”  characterized by handwork, repair, and making do: “We are not likely to revive the stewardship of objects and materials, formed in […]
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Article Alert- Reckoning with ruins

Progress in Human Geography has just published a great overview of the academic study of ruins by Caitlin DeSilvey and Tim Edensor called “Reckoning with ruins.” Abstract: Scholarly interest in ruins and derelict spaces has intensified over the last decade. We assess a broad selection of the resulting literature and identify several key themes. We […]
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