Giving significance to the insignificant. Applying ego to the inanimate object, devoid of ego, and conferring a centrality of the marginal and unwanted, the value of debris and discard. The hand-me-down and down and down. A profane illumination in the cycle of ashes to ashes. Grey dust as a metaphor for mourning and perhaps perversely, using the defeated and dead object to mourn on our behalf…
But, by according the insignificant and unwanted with new importance, does one not only complicates the task of interpretation, or simply commodify waste into new and intriguing forms of pop culture, a recycling of the most inventory in the rag pickers bag. The good stuff. On the one hand, traditional and normative aesthetic hierarchies are undermined, only to surprise by reappearing under new guises. Instead of valuing the great, the spectacular, the exceptional, the locus of study is on the ordinary; what is ignored by academia. The thrift store painting as opposed to the museum quality artwork.
What it implies is that the everyday world forces an interpretation that indicates it can no longer be taken for granted: a new optic where the familiar is unfamiliar. The trivial now represented the detail of enormous things, a sequence of minute details creating the whole. Whereas the will for power was concerned with the enormous: weapons, trade, land mass capture, diversion of resources etc. , the minute was the refuse of materialism, where resided the seed of the will to meaning. But, today, with digitalization, in our post-post world, even the trivial and insignificant are no longer regarded as an option to the will for power, but are part-and-parcel, accepted in this web of accumulation as well. Refugee products, refugee ideas and ideologies and a terminal boredom seeking refuge….
…The third type, the ragpicker, is related to the collector, but with the particular feature that the ragpicker sifts through refuse and garbage. This pile of refuse is filled with “rags of speech” and “verbal scraps.” Words themselves can become things that are thrown in the trash, and which the ragpicker, in his isolation, is the only one collecting. And if we wish to gain a clear picture of him in the isolation of his trade, what we will see is a ragpicker, at daybreak, picking up rags of speech and verbal scraps with his stick and tossing them, grumbling and growling, a little drunk, into his cart, not without letting one or another of those faded cotton remnants—‘humanity,’ ‘inwardness,’ or ‘absorption’—flutter derisively in the wind. A ragpicker, early on, at the dawn of the day of the revolution….
…The fourth and final type of Benjaminian scholar, the physiognomist, measures surfaces to evaluate the character of a thing. For example, a physiognomist would attempt to assess someone’s personality through their physical features. Unlike much of the Western scholastic tradition which privileges the truth within and discards the manifest appearance, the physiognomist is interested in the surface, the shell, the outside
boundary and shape of a thing: The period, the region, the craftsmanship, the former ownership—for a true collector, the whole background of an item adds up to a magic encyclopedia whose quintessence is the fate of his object. In this circumscribed area, then, it may be surmised how the great physiognomists the world of things—and collectors are the physiognomists of the world of things—turn into interpreters of fate. One has only to watch a collector handle the objects in his glass case. As he holds them in his hands, he seems to be seeing through them into their distant past, as though inspired…. Read More:http://www.epoche.ucsb.edu/Beaver06.pdf
…The physiognomic approach allows one not only to measure, but to read and interpret the material surfaces of things. For example, in the following passage from a radio address on the work of ETA Hoffman, Benjamin explicitly contracts the material specificity of physiognomy against that which floats in mid-air:
Like many other great writers, he found the extraordinary not somehow floating freely in mid-air, but in quite specific people, things, houses, objects, and streets. As you may have heard, people who judge their
acter, their profession, or even their fate by the shape of their head, are known as physiognomists. In this sense, Hoffmann was not so much a seer as someone who looked at people and things. And that is quite a good defintion of the term ‘physiognomy.’ Read More:http://www.epoche.ucsb.edu/Beaver06.pdf
In order to rethink the viability of “trash-art”, Walter Benjamin’s arguments on ‘garbage/trash’(Abfall) and ‘rag-picker’(Lumpensammler) are most stimulating. In the past I have called Benjamin’s method a “technique of garbage collection”. I dubbed it this considering Benjamin’s idiosyncratic materialism that interprets beings as garbage/trash, his historical philosophy which views creation less as output than as rearrangement, and the movements in the methodology of semiotics and deconstruction that developed following Benjamin. In a letter to his friend Gershom Scholem (August 9, 1935), in which Benjamin explains the concept of his later “Passagenarbeiten” treatises, he comments that “this work uses surrealism philosophically and sublimates (aufheben) it, at the same time attempts to capture an image of history in those things that present existence (Dasein) most subtly fixed, in other words in the “garbage/trash” of present existence….
…Radical Surrealist montage technique was well-known to Benjamin, but his aim was to develop it into something more profound–a means of historical awareness. In his “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” a condensed version of his view of history using montage techniques (or what William Burroughs would describe as “cutup”) are the following words: “The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again.” That “image never seen again” is not an image from some great event, but an image that appears in the “waste” of no consequence, and those able to bear witness to it are not “heroes” or some class with special privileges, but the “oppressed.” Read More:http://anarchy.translocal.jp/non-japanese/19990808trash-art.html
… Adorno: The problem is the rag-picker. To my mind the definition of the rag-picker as a marginal character personifying the very lowest level of poverty does not fulfil at all the promise of the term rag-picker when it appears in one of your texts. (abridged) I assume this shortcoming is related to the fact that the capitalist function of the rag-picker, i.e. the function that makes even beggars subordinate to their exchange value, is not made clear. Could I be reading too much into it all?
Adorno, who was eventually to outlive Benjamin, was finally to write: “All post-Auschwitz culture, including its urgent critique, is garbage(Muell),” and this demonstrates the pessimistic perceptions of Adorno in his belief that all “trivia,” “details” and “minute things” are ashes and dust, and all that exists is endless ruin. The world would become not a “slum” littered with “garbage/trash” but would resemble a city after a nuclear attack, a ruin in which even the “details” cannot be discerned.
Benjamin’s garbage collection technique directly supposes film montage. The reason his technique did not simply remain an application of the film technique known as montage is because he had a firm grasp of several techniques within the basic movements in thought and technology, i.e. the historical threads flowing into film montage–premodern storytelling, the ‘rencontre fortuite’ of surrealism, and even “quotations” of Berthold Brecht–and understood their meaning at the most basic of levels. However the digital technology that constructs virtually what does not really exist was not within the technological scope of Benjamin. Though things may be broken up, transformed into garbage and lose their wholeness, they do actually exist as extensions of the body. The electronic world of digital technology however, belongs to a level estranged from any extension of the body. This is, so to speak, the virtual “paradise” built on the “waste” and “ruins” of Adorno, and is “Utopia,” literally no-place. Adorno’s “pessimism” thus reverses itself into a positivism of electronic space.
Cyberspace is a no-place that nothing physical can exist. This is an ultimate form of garbage/trash where no body can survive. Art is an art that something physical flashes up at the instant over the space. Art can continue to exist only in the phase of time. Due to the cyberspace that exterminates physical element, live human body could reactivate itself in the temporal relation with it. Trash-art in the cyberspace will go to live action such as the live streaming. ( ibid.)