A research project by Curt Gambetta
on waste & the built environment

How To Make Waste Public: Experiments With Infrastructure

Organized by Curt Gambetta, Woodbury University

6518 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

April 19 1:30-6:00 PM
Rear Gallery

The symposium will bring into conversation critical perspectives on artistic and architectural interventions into the waste stream. It will discuss three sites of cultural and spatial experimentation, including experiments with materiality, the design of facilities and cultural norms about waste making and disposal. In juxtaposing practices that span art, pedagogy and architectural practice, the panel will reflect on the multivalent role of experimentation with the consequences of abject, dangerous substances such as garbage. If knowledge about waste and its consequences is increasingly invisible and complex, how do experimental practices open up the world of waste to new forms of inquiry, invention and urban experience?


April 19th, 1:30-6:00pm

Opening Remarks

Curt Gambetta 1:30-1:45

Site I: Practices

Waste-making is a practice that all of society participates in, willingly or not. Because it is a habitual, ritualistic practice, the consequences and values associated with these practices are often taken for granted, remaining in the background of daily life. Despite this, small acts such as littering and individual waste making are increasingly associated with larger scale consequences and social responsibility, especially after the wellspring of the environmental movement in the 1960’s and 70’s. Personal, individual acts are thus unavoidably political and ineluctably public. They are tied to values and cultural norms about cleanliness, health and space. How have art, architecture and other fields questioned these values and norms by experimenting with ideas of social, artistic and scientific practice?

Maite Zubiarre (UCLA) 1:45-2:15
Margo Handwerker (UCLA) 2:15-2:45
Discussant: Tim Durfee (Media Design Practices, Art Center) 2:45-3:00

Site II: Materials

Physical properties such as water content, toxicity and shape play a critical role in its afterlife, both as a cultural and technical phenomenon. At the same time, the materiality of waste is an archive of social and cultural life, containing traces of individual and collective experiences related to the use and consumption of objects. The combination of its cultural significance and physical composition play a crucial role in how waste is understood as a nuisance and resource. In what ways have architectural and artistic experiments played with and critiqued the architectural and social trajectories of wasted matter?

Lydia Kallipoliti: (Syracuse University and Cooper Union) 3:00-3:30
Discussion (discussant TBA) 3:30-3:45

Break 3:45-4:00

Site III: Facilities

Facilities are an urban prophylaxis. Ranging from the industrial shed to landfill liner, their physical boundaries and enclosures are designed to hide and cloak their presence in American cities. Despite their invisibility, facilities are always bigger than themselves. Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs), landfills, transfer stations and other facilities are implicated in larger networks of transport, pollution and reuse. For instance, landfill byproducts such as gas and leachate can travel many miles through air and aquifer, creating zones and pathways of contamination that are much larger than the landfill itself. Architecture is increasingly if belatedly attuned to this reality. How are architects and their collaborators imagining the participation of these facilities within larger urban and regional networks? What kinds of architectural experimentation are being raised by an engagement with these different scales of experience?

Mariana Moglievich: (New York University) 4:00-4:30
Curt Gambetta: (Woodbury University) 4:30-5:00
Discussion (discussant TBA) 5:00-5:15