‘Landfill as Multimodal Heritage’ presentation at EASA 2022 in Belfast
Landfill as Multimodal Heritage
What kind of material or semiotic clues should remain once an era of landfilling disappears? After thousands of years of waste dumping, this practice is supposed to disappear in Europe to pave way for the supposedly more sustainable futures. Landfills, nonetheless, are places with their own histories that can be tied to previous military training or industrial activities such as mining. These associations make the questions about potential preservation even more challenging.
There are already suggestions what to do with former landfills. They may become places for rest and recreation or burial of the dead to encourage the visitors of these unusual places of remembrance to reflect on visitors’ unfortunate separation from material flows. I propose to approach landfilling as multimodal heritage that carries a rich spectrum of potentialities for experience and memory. Landfills represent not only dark or toxic heritage in a sense of carrying disturbing feelings or harmful effects. They are literally museums of the future capturing ways of life as well as spatiotemporal relations inscribed in materiality of garbage itself. At the same time, landfills represent ‘loci of salvage’ or even joy where value does not disappear because of activities of human pickers rescuing bits and bobs, plants taking advantage of rich nutrients to grow, and birds picking food waste while creating new ecologies spreading way beyond landfills. At last, landfills offer an opportunity to capture ‘magnetic relations’ among various kinds of strangeness creating uncanny histories in sites of contemporary landfilling.