Global environmental concerns bring with them an opportunity to rethink current practices throughout our cultural sectors. This is Not Rubbish explores the intersection between performance and ecological design practice, with emphasis on the emerging paradigm of ‘eco-scenography’ – a movement that seeks to integrate ecological principles into all stages of scenographic thinking and production. A major focus of eco-scenographic practice is the elimination of landfill waste in the production of sets and costumes. The ephemeral and highly specific nature of scenographic work means most designs are only valued for the duration of the performance season (often a matter of days or weeks) before they are discarded. This investigation explores Michael Thompson’s Rubbish Theory (1979) as a basis for understanding the creation and destruction of value in man-made objects, cultural artefacts and ideas. Thompson’s argument that the value of an object is dynamic offers a unique perspective on ecological practice. His theory suggests that value emerges through our ways of finding, placing, transforming and re-using objects, and intersects with a fundamental component of scenographic thinking.
This is Not Rubbish is a project that explores the journey of a material rescued from landfill (in this case reclaimed but unused sausage netting), and its capacity to create diverse performance spaces and wearable artefacts over multiple years and continents. Transported in a small suitcase or backpack, the aim of the work is to challenge preconceptions of what we consider to be “rubbish” and our need as designers and performance makers to continuously “begin a new” in a world of increasing environmental issues and limited resources. The project is about re-thinking traditional design practices and re-interpreting materials and ideas to embrace the possibilities of ecological practice.
The first project of This is Not Rubbish is Strung, an eco-scenographic investigation that merges the boundaries between performer and designer, installation and costume, site and material. Part design demonstration and part immersive meditation, Strung aims to take the audience on a stimulating visual, aural and tactile journey that activates and celebrates the imagination. After the final showing of Strung, a craft circle was set up in November 2013 at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama to knit the material into wearable art and auction the items off for charity. The craft group knitted a diverse selection of wearable items from the reclaimed and reconstructed sausage netting to auction off it for charity. From a $30 bag of material, we raised $300 at the charity event. The money was then donated to fund a local community garden.
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