Wasteland Commons 

With Sandy Rompotiyoke
September 2020

Design


The landfill as a site of contamination should not exist. Its contentious state remains as a perpetual political byproduct of urban and colonial ecologies. Our proposal reimagines the landfill as a museum  of archival waste, which is integrated as an essential part of the city’s civic layer. Instead of disparaging these wastelands as malignant terrain, we envision that landfill-museum will become a political commons through its apparent visibility and collective stewardship.

Untainted nature is pervaded as grandiose romanticism and sublime arcadian frontier. Through classification and order of the aesthetic Wonder, Wunderkammer, museums have existed as commercialized inventories of colonial natures. The hereditary methodology of Natural History conducted in modern discourse is ingrained in the practice of extraction and exploitation of other extraterritorial ‘sacrificial zones’, while aggregating material wealth in an administered domain. The Wasteland Commons interrogates this contentious relationship and rejects the antiquated model of the
museum as a curated collection of colonial plunder.

This museum is deliberately ‘uncurated’: ‘Dumping’ on the site will be stratified linearly as the direct act of archiving. Waste deposited on the land strives to be an honest sample of the cumulative remnants to our material ecologies, reflecting the consumerist burden and trails of our tainted legacies. The landfill will no longer hide on invisible and esoteric fringes but emerges as an integral network of civic spaces within the urban fabric. This explicit confrontation with the accelerated ecological disfigurement is imperative in climate action. The momentum of environmental recovery can only be fostered through  collective action rather than an individual moral choice that our neoliberal economy has affimed us to believe.


This is not a proposal for an ‘exceptional’ landfill for a singular city. It is a call to re-constitute all landfills as museums. It is the rejection of the repellent wasteland that our existing exposed landfills generate. The decolonising process will not only render these flows of matter visible to its inhabitants but also serve as testimonial and evidence to be declared for global political representation, with each
landfill acting as a seat in a global Wasteland Commons.

The Exhibition framework includes ‘Terra-Archive’, the terrarium containing a small-scale simulated section of the ‘Wasteland Commons’. This performs as an artifact to inspire the public to dream of a future with climate justice. While ‘The Wasteland’ in the remaining exhibition area is opened up for diverse participants to collectively sketch and explore ideas on how this seemingly distant dream can be potentially realized.

We aspire to nurture the Exhibition as ‘a site for political assembly’, actuating the Wasteland Commons into everyday practice, that unceasingly thrive as a valuable educational resource and provocation for climate resilience collaboration.