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Rubbish Do-It-Yourself Projects

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Rubbish and DIY would seem to be closley related, as attempts at the latter often produce more of the former.

But in my world, things are the other way round: skips (US: dumpsters) are a source of domestic improvements. This page provides a few examples, from the fancy light fixtures to the scavenger's garden.

Skips are a source of raw materials and finished products ranging from lumber to electronic goods and the proverbial kitchen sink. I've been astounded more than once by the value or utility of things I've found on skips. Then again, some of the stuff I've seen should have been discarded long ago, and one wonders why it wasn't.

However, most of what I retrieve falls somewhere between these two extremes. This includes the Asahi Pentax K1000 with a 135mm lens and a dysfunctional light meter; the two-part aluminum ladder with a broken latch; the 24-inch fly-mo with a broken handle; the turntable missing a drive belt. But some of it is in good or top condition: the hard chairs; the old office furniture; the solid wood cabinets; the power shower and kitchen appliances; the stack of metal picture frames with glass intact; the fully functional Fujica ST605 with 35mm and 50mm lenses; the assortment of computer chassis, monitors, printers, scanners, network devices and other hardware. Some of this is tossed out one bit at a time, and some of it is the result of office relocations, renovations, or system upgrades.

But this page is about transformations from rubbish to objects of aesthetic value.

Retro Flat-Pack Technology Art

If it's not in a museum, and it's not art, it must be waste.

Lefebvre writes about waste as the necessary expenditure of energy; energy that explodes inwardly or outwardly; energy that must be spent. This energy always does work, the work of excess, the creation of more than necessary, the production of redundancy. This energy is more or less durable. Some of it gets consumed and re-released or spent almost immediately, as plant growth on derelict sites, for example. Other bits hang around, are slower to release their bound-up capacity. These things decay slowly, and can have extended relict states.

It's a container of sorts. It's a box that's not a box. It's an energy matrix. It's a retro technology made from bona fide stuff I found. I pulled up the carpet in the bathroom, and underneath the carpet was a linoleum floor. Isohedrons of variously colored tile were assembled precisely and adhered to a jute or sisal mat. It must have been made in the days before the foam-backed plastic that now comes in giant rolls. It may even have been hand-assembled. It's an obsolete product made with obsolete technology. It's durable excess. 

Hand assembly is the aesthetic here. Minimal work, mechanically simple. I could have duct-taped the joints together, but liked the idea of binding the edges, keeping it simple, keeping the materials exposed. While looking around for wire, string, zip ties, thread, I spotted a bunch of rubber bands that I had collected off the sidewalk, where they'd been dropped by a mail carrier. I liked the idea of using two plasticky products, latex and rubber (or something like that), and the idea of a stretchy, flexible shape. Something that might even be a retro flat-pack product.

It's a container for obsolete technology. It's a diskette holder. You can fill it with junk. It comes with free internal dividers. You can repair it if the rubber bands break. You can flat-pack it for shipping. You can throw it away, give it away, turn it into something else. You can let the mice move in. It's a birdhouse. It's a boat.

It's a distorted image of the past.