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    On garbage

    Scanlan, John (2005) On garbage. Reaktion. ISBN 9781861892225

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    Abstract

    What begins with the fleeting appearance of unrelated phenomena – a mediaeval painting of Hell, ‘magical’ soap, decapitated statues of Marx and Lenin, a seventeenth century ‘perspective house,’ English ‘plotlands’ – becomes, in the course of On Garbage, a subtle and persuasive meditation on the modern human condition and the emergence of Western culture. How do we decide what is junk, trash and garbage? In an intriguing study of the philosophy and aesthetics of 'waste', John Scanlan suggests that both the matter and spectre of waste create openings into an alternative and all too easily forgotten source of causality - the non-human - and thus reveal a world that does not always bend to the human will. Where modernity has stood for the reorientation of the world of lived experience through the subordination of space, time and nature, ‘garbage’ becomes emblematic of the limits of our attempt to make the world, in Martin Heidegger’s words, ‘a calculable coherence of forces’ at our disposal. Pursuing the shadow life of Western culture the author engages the ideas of a wide range of thinkers, including Kant, Freud, Nietzsche and Heidegger, novelists such as Laszlo Krasnahorkai, Ivan Klima and Don DeLillo, and considers the work of a host of artists, including Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg and Cornelia Parker

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