Myer Taub

The Social Life of Waste/Art: Recycling exchange as a transversal mode of translating research from the relationship between waste and artistic practice. 


In 2014, the author, a theatre-maker, along with two anthropologists began to work across disciplines embarking on “The Social Life of Waste/Art” (SLOW): a multidisciplinary project of artists, researchers and waste-workers across four cities in the Southern African region – Harare, Maputo, Pretoria and Johannesburg. The aim to explore and exhibit Waste-Arts (i.e. multi-disciplinary art works based in waste and recycling) is to understand how these practices maybe pathways out of poverty. The theoretical approach of the project draws on Appadurai’s ‘social life of things’ (1986) by understanding the value of things through a trajectory of exchange. Exchange points to social collectivism, bartering ideas, remaking and recycling as possibilities of translating the interdisciplinary links of the project as part of a performance as research enquiry. Appadurai argues: ‘It is only through the analysis of these trajectories that we can interpret human transactions and calculations that enliven things’ (1986:5). What are things of value emerging from waste into this re-embodiment of social and art practice? How, in reflecting on exchange, is there integration of social and art practice along with their resultant ‘paradoxes’ (Kershaw, 2007) made apparent? This paper attempts to consider how exchanges extend the metaphor of waste in an attempt to think ‘transversally’ (Kershaw 2007:259; Guatarri 1989:135). In thinking transversally, ideas reconnect dimensionally. Exchange performs as a methodology that integrates practice through transversal modes of research translation.

DR MYER TAUB is a lecturer in the Drama Department at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, where he teaches a variety of courses in the theatre and performance studies programs. His research scope includes areas such as Performance as Research (PaR), identity, performance as intervention and artistic practice within the theme of garbage and waste. He is a core researcher in the Capitol Cities Project, based at the University of Pretoria and a research leader in the Social Life of Waste Art, (SLOW) network based in the Southern African region. His international network includes being part a member of the PaR Working Group based within the International Federation of Theatre Research. Outside of the university he actively works in areas such as theatre making, performance projects situated in museums and heritage sites and developing new play texts. Currently in 2015 his new play “Florence” is being produced by the POPArt Theatre Company in Johannesburg and is completing his first fictional novel while undertaking various writing residencies in both India and Australia.