Trash Peaks / Imminent Commons
Imminent Commons, Urban Questions for the Near Future

Rania Ghosn + El Hadi Jazairy, 2017

The space of trash has become increasingly complex, with factors extending beyond traditional limits of the city. In the context of South Korea, the intense demographic transformation over the past four decades—with over half of the population now living in the Seoul metropolitan area—has posed significant challenges to the management of waste volumes, its technologies of disposal, and the question of landfill areas that will be exhausted in a matter of time. These realities of space and resources have pushed the city to actively engage the lifecycle of waste beyond landfilling, and has shifted public awareness towards waste disposal and the urgency of waste reduction.

Trash Peaks seeks to engage the public on the issue by placing the undesired matter of waste and its associated logistics, economics, and ecologies at the center of the “theater of the world.” The project composes a geographic imaginary of trash in Seoul: it foregrounds a scale, a representational view, a speculative practice, and an aesthetic. In a world where there is no longer an environmental outside, Trash Peaks articulates the interrelated acts of representing and projecting geographies of trash. First, it maps the materialist, political, and economic geographies of waste: of regulation changes, new processing facilities, change of sanitary landfill size, the emergence of recycling systems, the isolation of waste streams, and the emergence of waste-to-energy systems, amongst others. Second, it projects alternative imaginaries that aspire to shift public debates from their focus on positivist solutions to “garbage crises” to reconfigurations of the cultural assumptions upon which trash—its systems and symbolism—rests. In this respect, the project proposes five speculative yet generic projects that bring to visibility disciplinary controversies on the relations of technology, space, and politics.

The installation deploys the three objects of the carpet, the folding screen, and the tea table as devices to represent, project, and assemble a space of discourse and speculation. The carpet weaves an actor-diagram network of trash systems in Seoul. The folding screen appropriates the object of the irworobongdo, which traditionally symbolize a mythical place of mountain peaks in a royal court, to compose a highly stylized landscape of waste heaps that places the subject of trash at the center of conversation and the imaginary. The table hosts a series of miniature ceramic models involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of the project.

Click for more information about the Trash Peaks project.