Saul Albert on Sun, 1 Dec 2002 02:17:07 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> a trip to the dump, (thoughts on buy nothing day)

We had a huge clear-out at the Boxing Club, the umbrella group of articultural
organisations that run Limehouse Town Hall.

Over 3 days, 2.4 tonnes of rubbish was transported to the local 'waste
management centre' (formerly known as the Dump) and deposited.

What surprised (and then bored) me about the 3 full vanloads of crud was how
utterly useless and devoid of unexpected treasures it really was.

I recognised the dismembered husk of an office chair I had ridden 2 miles from
Bank to Limehouse last year, and a disintegrating y-front wearing plaster cast
of Brian Sewell's torso. It actually sounds much more fun than it was.

What I thought was a few months worth of rubbish  had obviously been
circulating in the internal trash economy of the Hall for over a year, and most
of it had come out of skips in the first place.

The courtyard by the bins at Charring Cross Road was always full of interesting
junk, and you could be sure that whatever was left out there was far more
likely to end up in the following year's degree show at CSM school of art than
in the skip outside. It would then reappear on the heap, re-painted and
re-configured some time in late July before being snapped up again and again
until it was finally reduced to small and useless enough fragments to be sealed
in bin liners and chucked.

This 'grinder' effect - squeezing every bit of use from objects and materials
is one of the most useful and creative processes at the Town Hall and other
trash tech / art production venues I've seen, and is a good test of the
creative health of an organisation.

What gives rise to this process is the multiplicity of media, practices, and
interests of the people who use the space. One practice's junk is another's
material, and if there is enough diversity in the interests of each
contributor/scavenger to the rubbish pile, very little will ever be discarded
only once.

Just think about the waste products of different types of workplaces. The best
and most lavishly wasteful skips I've ever seen were round the back of the TVAM
studios in Islington. In fact, taking into account the quality of the TV shows
they made there reveals a direct inverse correlation between the quality of
their rubbish and that of their media product.

It makes me sick when recycling is presented as some kind of social
responsibility. Packaging, the residue of commodity after any nutritional value
is squeezed out, shoved back into the arsehole of public life as social
spectacle. It might reduce a few incidents of domestic violence, but the
frustrated weekend fleece-wearers polishing their frustration by smashing
bottles (ever so safely) into the bottle bank before re-ascension into the SUV
does nothing for the 'environment'. The cost involved in re-processing would be
much better spent investing in something actually useful rather than some kind
of displaced consumer guilt-servicing. (see

Physical/conceptual skip raiders: Reverend Rat of 2600, Pauls Garrin and
Granjon, the Bureau of Inverse Technology, Irational, RTI, Rory Macbeth,
Spamradio, and anyone else with a clue become the unsuspected beneficiaries of
accidental grants and subsidies left in abandoned buildings, in malleable
legacy software structures, in piles of cabling behind office blocks or just
idling too long within easy reach of liberation.

So if you've already bought something today, break the re-cycle of consumption
by repurposing it.



*to ratch*
- To seek in an unspecific manner. "Going for a ratch outside", "Ratching
around an old building"

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