‘Performing Wastes’ – Ecology & the Arts Research Group Seminar, 28th October 2015

I’ll be leading a seminar at Durham University on 28th October 2015. The seminar is hosted by the School of Modern Languages and Cultures and their interdisciplinary Ecology & the Arts Research Group. Here are the details in full:

When: 12pm-1pm, 28th October 2015
Where: A56, Elvet Riverside I, Durham University
The seminar is free and all are welcome
For more details please contact the group’s convenor, Dr. Kirsten Oloff

As much as possible the talk will be a summary of my Waste book. I’ve copied the abstract below:

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.

New Books in Critical Theory: a Conversation with Dave O’Brien

About this time last year I had the pleasure of meeting and being interviewed by Dave O’Brien at Goldsmiths for the New Books in Critical Theory site. In the interview I discuss Waste and how it come into being. It’s the only audio interview I’ve done about the book and, together, Dave and I discuss a wide range of theoretical, historical, political, and environmental concerns that intersect with the concept of waste. Below I’ve quoted Dave’s description of the podcast and you can hear it here.

What is waste? William Viney‘s Waste: A Philosophy of Things (Bloomsbury, 2014; 2015) explores the meaning of waste across a variety of contexts, including literature, sculpture and architecture. The text begins by stressing the importance of time to our understanding of waste, as opposed to more traditional conceptions that are grounded in spatial distinctions. Rather than looking at waste through the dualities of useful or not useful, dirty or clean, William Viney asks us to be attentive to our relationship to objects in time, understanding how they are understood by the many narratives that they may contain, which they may have been party to, and which they may require for us to be able to understand them. The book draws on an emerging but established tradition of work that draws attention to the role of materiality and objects in our understanding of the world. By offering an alternative to the view that waste is the garbage of consumer capitalism, we can see the value of things as their potential, as it is realised in time. The importance of time to understanding objects, as well as understanding waste, is seen through diverse examples, from Cornelia Parker’s sculptures, one created from an exploded shed, through the material objects of the manuscripts of James Joyce, to the representation of future ruins in The Planet of The Apes. These diverse and eclectic sites to exploring waste sit alongside the readings of more traditional subjects for literary theory, such as Elliot’s The Waste Land, meaning the book will appeal to a range of scholars working across the humanities and in the social sciences.