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Laid Waste: Dead Matter, New Landscapes, and the Politics of Trash


In cross-disciplinary scholarship, an emerging “trash” discourse considers the implications of excessive production and consumption and their inevitable corollary—the sense that all things are disposable. Nature has been reconfigured as a landfill, an artificial landscape of discarded matter. Objects possess a shrinking lifespan, quickly replaced by a newer upgrade. Driven by a need for constant rejuvenation, consumers fetishize the new and dismiss obsolescent products. I wish to posit aging – more specifically, the elderly female body—against the “landscape” of trash in order to engage its vocabulary of entropy and decay as well as to deploy the repurposing of discarded materials as a means to reconceptualize aging. In her film, The Gleaners and I (2001), Agnes Varda interposes her body between the spectator and her consideration of different forms of gleaning in France. Our awareness of her mediation recasts the symbiosis of women and nature in terms of aging. The organic matter recovered by gleaners functions metaphorically to “repurpose” Varda’s aging perspectives and continuing immersion in and engagement with her environment and intersecting communities. While Varda’s documentary is concerned with organic waste, inorganic landfill—particularly “old” technologies—also informs perceptions of youth, age, and life cycles.


Arts and Humanities | Fine Arts | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology