Events in Modern Languages & Cultures
Ecology & the Arts Research Group Seminar: Dr. William Viney (Durham), 'Performing Wastes'
Abstract: Any theory of waste must account for why waste remains tangibly and capaciously significant, why it can mean so many different things, to so many different people, and across many different times. The broad scales at which waste can operate – from the isolated foreclosure or suspension of utility in a single object to the cataclysmic end of an entire ecosystem – reflects how an emphasis on physical or semantic finitude neglects an excessive quality to what waste is, does, and yet might do. At its most basic, the purpose of this paper is to explore who or what makes discarded things such polymorphic instruments with which to fashion arguments about the world and its inhabitants. This paper will also outline how waste performs and enters into states of performance, how it operates through structures of contradiction that make it such an abundantly meaningful thing to think with. Using examples drawn from works of sculpture, architecture and literature, I explain how we often make and take time according to our engagement with discarded things, and how this chronographic potential shapes an important means by which to consider the form and extent of an artwork’s effects. The paper concludes on the telling and vital influence of waste; far from the degraded, lifeless, abject, or disorderly, the concept and experience of waste is shown to be an integral part of environments as they are built and unbuilt over time.
Bio: William Viney is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of English Studies and the Centre for Medical Humanities at Durham University. His monograph, Waste: A Philosophy of Things, was published in 2014 by Bloomsbury Academic.
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