1979 the report “Beyond the Age of Waste” warned of global consequences facing the continuing and increasing waste of resources. Although it has not yet resulted in a more thrifty management of resources, “waste” may be thought of nowadays as a reverse figure: extensive cleaning and recycling processes as well as recent developments like “urban mining” regain reusable raw materials out of waste. Waste is hence considered as a “new resource”, dynamic and transformable.

In Times of Waste this transformation processes and its stages are of interest. The research project looks at the purification, treatment and reuse respectively disposal of objects and materials as well as at involved actors and fields of activity. On the transport and recycling routes extending from Basel’s local context into global connections, objects are not only undergoing material transformation, but also economic, social, aesthetic or rhetorical reassessments. It is a matter of perspective what is considered when or at which stage of materiality as waste respectively as a “new” resource.

On the basis of current network-, subject- and materiality-theories (e.g. Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Gilles Deleuze/Félix Guattari, Jane Bennett, Timothy Morton, Gay Hawkins/Emily Potter) the research team is following up on questions like:

  • What are the transformation processes and value changes of (waste) objects or materials?
  • What materiality changes do they pass from creation to reprocessing respectively disposal or removal?
  • How are specific actors involved into these processes?
  • How can such a topic be presented for public reception using transmedial techniques?

An interdisciplinary team realises different tracing projects of three exemplarily selected objects/materials and their routes from a (cultural)scientific-aesthetic perspective: e-waste (biography of a smartphone), urban mining (recycled material from buildings, streets etc.) and water ecology (pesticides, nano-silver). To develop the biographies the researchers work with different media like video, sound, photography and text. The gathered and edited material will be collected in a “digital archive” developed during the research project.

In order to realize the tracing projects methods like “participant observation” will be synthesized and combined with transnational or global research and transmediality. The qualitative methods and procedures are observing or performative. The used media is auditive, visual or textual and the presentation formats will be interactive, installative and essayistic. The team will work with partners from environmental fields of activity (offices, universities, NGOs) and exhibiting institutions (Museum der Kulturen, House of Electronic Arts, both in Basel) in order to realise joint input events which will involve also the public. Thereby different perspectives will be directed to the transformation processes and related discussions and reflections will be incorporated into the project. Questions of knowledge design and collaboration will be fundamental. We aim at displaying how, where and with whom knowledge is created and how the form of representation affects the reception.

An application as a “digital media archive” will be developed and unite all resultant (intermediate) products in space and time. Simultaneously it will contain their evaluation and serves as a repository. In addition to breaking-up cultural connotations of waste the aim of the project is to influence the discussion on sustainability in the region of Basel and beyond by applying an artistic-scientific process-oriented approach and its aesthetic implications. A discourse that should be seen within the context of globalised developments.

Audio walk “wastescapes” featured on ARTE

The Basel-focussed episode of the ARTE show Twist also includes a brief interview with CML researcher Flavia Caviezel, among many other artists and projects dealing with waste and leftovers. You can watch the episode on ARTE’s website (in German / French).

Times of Waste – Handling Matter

Theory and practice of handling (waste) materials in sciences, arts, and collections.