Waste In the Age of Mechanical Production

by cindy

Walter Benjamin spoke of the loss of an art object’s aura – or spiritual value – when it became decoupled from its singularity as a result of mechanical reproduction.

Similarly, consumer goods/manufactured goods have lost their scarcity value through the process of mass mechanized production.

For Benjamin, the result for art – or anything aesthetic that had spiritual value – was a loss of a primary spiritual referent which produced the disconnected unease of modernism.

In the case of the mass production of consumer goods, the byproduct we are confronted with is the aesthetic, spatial, material, economic, and ecological problem of waste.

I enjoyed the reference to Benjamin in Roger’s account of Robert Moses’ plan to develop un-usable lands by shoring them up with waste landfill.

For Benjamin, “world exhibitions are the sites of pilgrimages to the commodity fetish.”  How fitting is that that the site of the 1939 World’s Fair – Building the World of Tomorrow – was literally born up by the heaping piles of yesterday’s trash, brought about as a direct result of a newly evangelized and patriotic system of mass consumption designed to bring economic progress and prosperity.

 

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