UCL Urban Laboratory


Waste: two interdisciplinary projects funded in events call

11 October 2019

UCL Urban Laboratory and the Institute of Advanced Studies are delighted to announce two interdisciplinary projects have recieved funding as part of our annual theme of Waste.

Biopolitics of the Plasticene

The fund supports UCL researchers, and their collaborators, to produce public events or public engagement activities around the concept of Waste, as a widely defined grand challenge.

The two projects are:

Waste as (Urban) Practice - Pushpa Arabindoo & Fabien Cante

This proposal is related to the pedagogic approach within the MSc Urban Studies programme of learning from practice using annual themes, the focus this year being Waste. In approaching practice as creative and critical, we will be using Waste as a means of exploring how various modes of waste as (urban) practice produces particular understandings that challenge and contribute to its ongoing theorisations in radical ways.

We will be developing a specific set of curatorial activities where students, working in groups, will assume several waste-related personas to produce counter-narratives of waste. It will involve the exploration of UCL as a Wasteland, both real and imagined, and demonstrate a multi-media manifestation of waste across diverse sites. Through the second half of term 2 (February-March), students will perform their waste personas around the campus in the form of Agit-prop enactments identifying several locations as ‘waste hotspots’. This will translate into a waste map that will be produced as a countermapping to UCL’s formally mapped campus experience. A pamphlet documenting student outputs will be produced at the end culminating in a workshop event in June 2020 that will mark the release of this pamphlet along with a half-day symposium titled Practising Waste which will bring all the practitioners who contributed to this module in a conversation with UCL academics deliberating on waste as a research agenda.

Dr Pushpa Arabindoo is Co-Director of UCL Urban Laboratory and Associate Professor in the UCL Department of Geography, and Dr Fabien Cante is Teaching Fellow in the UCL Department of Geography.

Our Synthetic Environment - Maya Fowkes & Reuben Fowkes

24 January 2020

A panel discussion with artist Diana Lelonek (University of Art Poznań, Poland), art historian Amanda Boetzkes (University of Guelph, Canada) and environmental scientist Neil Rose (UCL Department of Geography), moderated by Maja and Reuben Fowkes (UCL Institute of Advanced Studies).

In one of the earliest tracts of modern ecology, Our Synthetic Environment (1962), written at the onset of technologically driven consumer society, Murray Bookchin analysed the dangers posed by plastics and other artificial materials to human welfare and the natural environment. Today a vortex of waste covers vast ocean surfaces with undulating fields of discarded plastic, which on breaking down continue their sea voyage to contaminate the remote waters of the arctic as microparticles, intruding into biological realms through the insides of unwitting fish and birds, and fusing with volcanic rocks to form unearthly plastoglomerates that wash up on Pacific islands. At the same time, toxic dust from industrial centres rises on the wind to turn pristine polar landscapes into synthetic wilderness, as a further sign that the detritus of industrial modernity can no longer be contained. This interdisciplinary panel explores engagements in contemporary art and ecology with the question of waste, the impact of manmade materials on the natural environment and exposure to toxicity.

Maja Fowkes and Reuben Fowkes are co-directors of Post-socialist Art Centre (PACT) at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London and founders of the Translocal Institute for Contemporary Art.