Monday, May 19, 2008

Rubbish Ecology

I received the new PMLA in the mail today & read Patricia Yaeger's article "The Death of Nature and the Apotheosis of Trash; or, Rubbish Ecology": an interesting read. You should read it. If you don't subscribe to the journal, go to the university nearest you, find its English Department, and steal their department copy.

Her claim that "the binary trash/culture has become more ethically charged and aesthetically interesting then the binary nature/culture," within the context of the article, seems to make sense in that "a world where nature is dominated, polluted, pocketed, eco-touristed, warming, melting, bleaching, dissipating, and fleeing toward the poles--detritus is both its curse and its alternative. Trash is the becoming natural of culture, what culture, eating nature, tries to cast away. In the midst of simulacra, it is also a substance in which we can encounter decay and mortality" (338).

Her analysis of various art-objects is engaging, but I would have liked to have read further about the fact that "rubbish ecology and the aestheticization of trash may times unethical in a world where brownfields and colossal dumps swallow the poor" (335). While Yaeger acknowledges this fact, she proceeds without working through this issue on the macro-level. Are artists and scholars who fetishize "rubbish ecology" complicit in the unequal distribution and relocation of "trash" based on socio-economic status? Certainly. Does this article forward an egalitarian praxis concomitantly with its aesthetics that attempts to mitigate this disparity? Certainly not. Although, in Yaeger's defense, she does begin the essay with an anecdote about taking "a massive bag of [papers]" (321) to a recycling center, which on a micro-level appears to be eschewing the disparities of "trash culture."

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