Blog response for week 2 (Feb. 6) — general introductions to waste

Prompt 1: In her article, “The Death of Nature and the Apotheosis of Trash….,” Patricia Yaeger writes:

[A]n old opposition between nature and culture has been displaced in postmodern art by a preoccupation with trash: the result of weird and commodity-based intermingling. If nature once represented the before (creating culture as child, product, or second nature) and if detritus represented the after (that which was marginalized, repressed, or tossed away), these representations have lost their appeal. We are born into a detritus strewn world, and the nature that buffets us is never culture’s opposite. (Yaeger 323)

How do you make sense of what Yaeger means by this? In your analysis, pull in an example from elsewhere in her essay, or from the Calvino or Cohen/Jonhson readings.

Alternative Prompt: Write a self-portrait as a waster or garbage producer. Some thing you might include (though you can approach this however you like and you do not need to answer all – or any – of these questions): What do you collect and why? What do you throw out that other people might keep? What do you keep or buy or find that other people might throw out? What makes you decide to value something? Have you ever changed your approach to waste? You may think of the Calvino article as a kind of inspiration.

7 thoughts on “Blog response for week 2 (Feb. 6) — general introductions to waste

  1. Anthony Dominguez

    Here, Yaeger argues that postmodern art has changed the way society thinks about the relationship between nature, culture, and waste. Specifically, through the use of waste as a mediator between nature and culture, postmodern art consequently combines and blurs the previously singular and separate identification of nature, culture, and waste.

    In constructing her argument on this new form of identity between nature/culture/waste, Yaeger brings up the example of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Yaeger writes, “Earth artists like Smithson preserve the circulation of trash as the residue of culture and nature; for him the terms cease to be separate (334).” She continues:

    “As Michael Kimmelman says, Spiral Jetty functions like an outdoor sign pointing visitors toward the horizon, “where there is not just nature to look at but also rusting cars and a decrepit pier. An ancient sea and industrial ruin, ‘the site,’ as Smithson wrote, was ‘evidence of a succession of man-made systems mired in abandoned hopes.’”

    Comprised of “mud, precipitated salt crystals, rocks, and a water coil (Smithson,,” thus, creating art—culture—through nature and surrounded by “rusting cars” and “a decrepit pier,” symbols of waste, Smithson’s Spiral Jetty figures into Yaeger’s argument on postmodern art.

    When viewed through the lens of our own lives, the consequence of Yaeger’s argument is that we may no longer be just surrounded by culture or nature but an amalgamation of the two transfigured by trash, consequently leading to new ways of both observation and thinking.

  2. Muhammad Dalhatu

    I believe Yaeger’s statement refers to the social contract Italo Calvino mentioned in the text “The Road to San Gianni”. The social contract between the individual, the garbage collector, and what is considered good living. The act in which one removes the trash from his dustbin, out to the street where the garbage collector picks up and throws into the truck away from society. As Calvino states “I am nevertheless already taking on a social role; offering myself as the first link in a chain of operations crucial for collective cohabitation…” (PG. 98). The statement refers to the conformity an individual has to the social order of metropolitan bureaucracy. If they do not take such necessary actions, they are either fined or die buried under their own trash due to the lack of sanitation. Such trash has to either be removed, in the case of food, or recycled in the case of paper as Calvino mentioned in differentiating the two types trash. The act becomes a ritual in which an individual understands it to be necessity, forgetting the all that it could possibly bring.
    Yaeger’s statement can also be tired to the statement William A. Cohen states in the text “Locating Filth”. As he stated “…as human being evolved and developed social arrangements, they renounced their attachment to excrement and its attendant sensory modality olfaction, privileging sight and distance over smell and proximity.” (Pg. XIV). Although humans would rather move further away from filth, they still have a certain attachment to it because in part it’s like losing apart of oneself. This can be seen as we try to retain its psychical value by recycling such items. Filth can have value in its negativity to an individual for various reasons.

  3. alisha collins

    After reading the article, I got the impression that Patricia Yaeger wants the audience to realize the connection between nature and culture and how this has changed within time. In regards to trash, I think of nature as the physical world. Nature is a combination of all earthly compositions: whether it is animals, land/plants and the overall ecosystem. I think of culture as a set of morals or customs/beliefs that people have or practice. We are provided with nature’s components than within time can become trash, however, it doesn’t mean that it can be thrown away. Trash can be made into another form than can be useful to us. I believe that Yaeger wanted to emphasize the point that we often forget that trash doesn’t always have to stop at the “life expectancy” that we give it but it can be used for other purposes. The reason this doesn’t occur in our generation is because we live in a society that trash is trash and once we deem it as “trash” it no longer has a purpose or use.
    In Calvino’s article, I believe that the example “only by throwing something away can I be sure that something of myself has not yet been thrown away and perhaps need not be thrown away now or in the future,” refers to disposing something that was once a part of you in order to grown within yourself. We get a sense of separation in terms of the “old self” and “new self.”

    As a garbage producer, I think of the obvious but not always intentional discard of spoiled foods, wrappers, shredding unwanted documents, and even tossing a gum wrapper on the floor if there are no garbage cans accessible; I along with many others are guilty of this.
    As a waster, I try not to waste anything because I am a firm believer in getting my worth out of a product before getting rid of it. I never really focused on it entirely, but I have come to the realization that I’m not quick to toss these out due to attachment reasons. I feel that if something is mine; it is indeed mine. If I have clothes or items that I know that is of no use to me I don’t throw it in the garbage I often donate it. A recent example was the end of the year, I took all the clothes I no longer could fit and knew that no friends or family could fit and donated it to the Salvation Army. Throughout this process I found a few of my favorite jeans I loved to wear but could no longer fit them. One pair of jeans I brought to the cleaners to have it turned into a pair of shorts. The other pair I cut up into large rectangles to use to clean certain detail spots in my car.
    I always try to find another use for something before I get rid of it. I always want to know that i got my money worth out of it.
    Lastly, what makes me decide the value on something has to be how I can benefit from it and it has to be provide me with versatility.

  4. Lee Clark

    Yaeger sees nature and trash not as opposite but as turning synonymous with one another. Adorno explains, “nature only exists in the presence of debris” (334) and that is exactly what Yaeger says. That this world is littered not only with trash but with nature at this point, and our culture is changing and reflecting the way culture trash and nature are intersecting (332).

    The example that Yaeger provides that resonated most with me was the discussion of why try to fight this, and we should cultivate how nature and debris can thrive when seen more as one. The architect, Peter Latz created a park in East Germany inspired by the of the rubble of post post was lands, and transformed how folks saw the deterioration of their landscape. Latz did not see the point in hiding the fact that the area was destroyed in war, the term “de-industrialized zone” explains the park perfectly. The park is a curated part of culture that has taken on the elements of nature and utilizing the detritus from the war. At the end of the article in Yaeger’s notes, she explains a bit more from the story Underworld, and the quote is, “The most ethical act is to love the other precisely in their artificiality, rather than seeking to prove their naturalness and authenticity” (338). Latz is a great example of not fighting this artificiality and allowing the trash to become a part of his designed nature.

  5. sylvia chung

    Alternative Prompt
    My closet is the most condensed and packed area in my place; there are rows of folded sweaters stacked inside bins, coats and bags hanging on rods, and piles of bags of clothes are up against the wall. Not only my closet, I also have underbid storage bins shoved underneath my bed. I am a collector of clothes, since working as a fashion designer, I accumulated a mass amount of clothes and accessories.
    I started to buy less clothes since am able to keep store-brought and proto-type samples from work. I am particularly obsessed with cashmere sample sweaters, cashmere is high quality yarn and sweaters are expensive to buy at retail stores. My boss at work is astonished by the amount of samples I take home, but these are also for my family and friends, samples are very useful for presents. There are plenty more samples at work that are boxed up for donation and/or get discarded. At first it was hard to see samples that I designed that discarded but now I am immune to it and better off getting rid of samples to keep my work area clean.
    Working in the fashion industry and as a designer, I will still collect clothes and its a story of my life. Calvino writes in his book The Road to San Giovanni, “the newspaper is something I always buy….but it upsets me to throw it out right away, I am always hoping that is may prove useful later on, may still have something to tell me.” I resonate by collecting clothes, I hope it will an inspiration for me 10 years later. Of course, I need to be more selective on clothes that I take home from work or buy and share more with other people. There will be one day that all these clothes will go to waste or get recycled, but until then, clothes will fill my closet and ready to wear at anytime.

  6. CZ

    I begin to make sense of Yaeger’s The Death of Nature and the Apotheosis of Trash by understanding that neither of these constructs, nature or culture, are cold and hard categories, nor is their dissolution, overall and into each other all that new. These categories that she qualifies, nature as before (or producing culture), and detritus as the after (or marginalized) are no longer useful to us, as they merely follow a binary that allows for the old opposition of culture and nature, instead, artists use this melting of constructs as cause célèbre. Erosion of this binary construct is no longer useful when “trash becomes nature and nature becomes trash”. Our cultural production as humans, it would seem, is now essentially garbage or at least that is binary of trash/culture has become more fruitful (as Yaeger argues), due to the rise in production in post WW2 world, where the the very moment at which a thing is produced, it becomes obsolete, and thus, trash. This notion of cultural production as trash, is evidenced by Giuliani’s outsourcing to Virginia dealing with the trash of NYC, as William A. Cohen writes, “if the rest of the country wanted New York’s art and commerce, it would have to take the city’s trash as well.” In fact, this conflation becomes so ingrained that we can no longer imagine a future without our trash, and in the Science Fiction fantasies (Blade Runner and Artificial Intelligence) that Yaeger describes, we move from a “culture of maintenance to a culture of discards.” This belief is echoed in the opening sequence of Wall-E, where the monuments of modernity, human cities, are indistinguishable from our monumental landfills. In the last thoughts of the article Yaeger argues that, “trash is the becoming natural of culture, what culture, eating nature, tries to cast away”, I wonder what the future of our cultural legacy and how we identify it will be? With the looming supposed dismantling of the EPA and the plausible auctioning off of our National Parks, will we finally be able to “jump down into the mud… [and] choose this poisoned ground”? Will we flock to our landfills as sites of majesty as we once did to the Grand Canyon?

  7. Gregory Rocco

    Representations of nature and trash have faded into what Yaeger considers a new binary between the former and culture (338). In postmodern art, trash has assumed almost a new form of nature where what once represented what was neglected has now assumed the new “natural.” For example, in A Sudden Gust of Wind Yaeger turns to the “trash” seen in the photo moving between states of matter much like forms of nature. The “papers, neck scarf, coat, trees, leaves, all move from solid to gas” where trash becomes not only lost nature but loose objects as well. The attention is drawn now between the discarded objects both manufactured and natural, and how they are juxtaposed against the image itself. Instead of originally a photo surrounding interaction and nature, it’s now interaction with what could be considered debris, seeming like a new natural.

    Or another example is The Destroyed Room which is a take on The Death of Sardanapalus except discarded and broken items assume the figures originally in the picture. All of the detritus has degraded to a certain degree whether it be by natural cause or directly by a human force. Now that we live in a world surrounded by these “trash” objects, recreating these pictures with a different take such as this doesn’t just alter the meaning, but is able to assume the new meaning considering that the binary has changed and detritus has replaced nature.

    However, I’m still a bit confused as to what the definition of trash truly is in the piece. It seems not only to extend to a form of signified trash but rather any discarded object whether it be implicitly or explicitly discarded. For example, could an object still be considered “detritus” if it is not purposefully tossed away and still serves a form of purpose? Or if an object still has a form of use, can it still be considered detritus?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *