2020 | with zeke jones
Waste is handled in myriad ways depending on geography, politics, and time in history. What is consistent through time is that the landfill, in its various forms, is a space of othering, that which society sees as no longer worthy of use. What we deem waste, and the spaces it occupies, is a cultural product that extends beyond the practicality of sanitation at multiple scales.
Landfills are not well understood because of the methods we’ve developed to conceal them. An analysis of scales of space ranging from the domestic to the popular imagination reveal that a landfill is more than a singular landscape object, but instead a complicated network meant to displace and conceal waste from human contact. The spatial implications of societal relationships with waste assert complicated economic, political, and societal operations that reinforce prescribed ideals of places in time. While Austin’s solid waste economies are controlled by federal and city policy and the private companies contracted to manage and collect its discards, they require a complicit population willing to fundamentally change their own rituals. Landfills are critical civic spaces that should be seen as such, and play a fundamental role in our behaviors to determine what is waste and what is resource.