The Waste Archive

by Jesus Meseguer, Javier Arias, Mireia Ferri, and Connie Meseguer


On the periphery of urban reality, a new stratum has emerged. The imprint of human activity accumulates on now barren lands. Urban wastelands are marked by the erosive furrow of debris, made invisible while their destruction as living spaces is taking place. Empty territories engulf waste amalgams, deposits of what has exhausted its apparent raison d’être, a fluid and attribute-less matter. In these entropic places inertial accumulation fosters oblivion. The question on waste and the principles governing its elimination is pressing. Bourriaud and Smithson seem to agree that the future is lost somewhere within the dumpsters of a non-historic past. One should write history by starting with scraps and ruins; the task is to reconstitute, patiently, a nomenclature of the invisible, to rediscover the exact form of the remnants on which the social edifice now stands. Debris are material evidence that raise questions on how to inhabit in the midst of demolition.  We should understand them as physical evidence as its materiality unearths entropic, ecological, cultural and social trauma. The implicit dialectics of these processes must be unveiled. The devalued emerges as the new.

1. The Waste Archive: the earthenware jug, the cabinet and the table brazier | Image by Javier Arias

2. The Earthenware jug: sludge from urban waste water | Image by Javier Arias

3. The Cabinet: discharged HEB beam and orange branches | Image by Javier Arias

The Waste Archive project reuses local debris to reinterpret traditional Spanish furniture. These common imageries are subverted to critically comment on our ecological impact. El botijo, the earthenware jug used as a container for water, is now materialized with an earth-like stratum obtained from urban sewage treatment that unearths the invisible processes contained in our cities’ water. La vitrina, the cabinet is crystallized by moulds of an HEB beam remnant and orange tree branches that refer to a temporary interlude after junk accumulation and before its dissolution in a furnace. El brasero, a table brazier where olive residues are overlapped to cohabit: toxic waste from olive oil industry, discharged tree trunks, pruned branches and olive bone ashes. Adherences that unveil the anthropized lifeline of olive trees. Waste-matter displays trauma processes diluted in their form, texture, colour and odour. An aesthetic revision becomes a mean to unveil hidden realities. We can become active subjects of this shared emergency if we deconstruct junk as something generic, extrinsic and finite. If the discarded resurfaces into the ordinary, we reappropriate our own ecological trace. What we require is abjection without cleansing, a melancholia without mourning.

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Jesus Meseguer ↩, Javier Arias, Mireia Ferri, and Connie Meseguer