Loads of rubbish

There may be no such thing as a new idea, but a few good ones have been

3 recycled in The Great Rubbish

Show at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre. Thom Dibdin reports.

Garbology is the new cult science for the 90s. finding out who consumes what. by looking at what they throw away in their rubbish. lts fascination is already manifest in the Schlitz beer adverts. where those who have done their five minutes on the fame circuit allow the Schlitz

photographer to lay out their weekly rubbish for us ,

all to take a peek. So it is no surprise to find its presence felt in the Great Rubbish Show.

Unlike the archaeologist. who un—earths the broken and worn-out remnants of a civilisation. the garbologist depends on our modern proclivity for throwing out our belongings as soon as they go out of fashion. as the first section of the exhibition explains. Only in modern rubbish will you make really useful finds: our ancestors would have already recycled it. So here we have the basis for all kinds ofcreated objects. from musical instruments and toys to kitchen utensils and sculpture.

The garbologist depends on our modern proclivity for throwing out our belongings as soon as they go out of fashion.

A fascinating object in the second section the creative re-use of rubbish is a case full of things made from tins. pieces ofpaper. telephone wire

and the sort ofjunk that finds its way onto skips the

world over. Unlike the sculptures and heavy duty instruments for the kids to play around on. these are delicate handcrafted artefacts from India and

Africa. A photo caption reminds you that ‘In some

countries people work. and even live. on rubbish tips. They earn their living by collecting things that

can be re-used.’

‘Rubbish waste disposal in the past was much more organised than most people realise.‘

according to a display in the next area. ‘Even in the -

Middle Ages officials called ‘scavengers‘ and ‘rakers‘ collected refuse for the city authorities. In the 18th and 19th centuries rubbish was collected

i and taken to depots where it was sorted; anything capable of re-use was removed and sewage or

night-soil was disposed ofby ‘nightmen‘.’ Finally. to the modern. first-world. rubbish-producing countries. where we are

. lookingincreasingly totechnology to solve rubbish

problems. Recycling is in. bringing with it some disturbing overtones. In New York. police have actually started checking through people's bins to

make sure they have not thrown away anything

that can be recycled. 'l‘hese implications are only


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“The aesthetic qualities of the objects which re~use scrap material

touched upon in an area mostly taken tip with clear models and demonstrations of how recycling works.

As you might expect. the Great Rubbish Show is primarily aimed at a younger audience. The hands~on exhibits are basic. clear and bright. with plenty of buttons to push and questions to answer. This is undoubtedly of high educational value for youngsters. however. it is very simplistic. The idea that it is better to re-use than recycle. is never explicitly stated. You are not told that this is a more energy-efficient way ofcoping with waste. although the aesthetic qualities of the objects which re-tise scrap material far outweigh those made from recycled paper and plastic so the idea


taroutweighthose made from recycled paper and plastic.’

is subconsciously raised.

Adults are not altogether left out as there is lots to occupy the more mature mind. However. the ideas. artistic conceits and design constraints thrown up by the show could be expanded into something more thought provoking without turning the show into a technological display. What is there is good. Some ofit very good: Ruth Lander‘s Man Woman and Dog. sculpted from scrap metal is both pleasing and amusing. But you get the feeling that you are just touching the tip of an idea that could take over the whole City Arts Centre. not just the basement.

The (ireat Rubbish Show continues a! the C ‘in A rt ( .‘entre until I 3 March.