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Yesterday afternoon I took a trip to “Aladin’s Cave” at Tayside Recyclers to see if I could find some ‘junk’ to repurpose into prototypes for my honours project design. I set out to become an urban scavenger.

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There was so much junk, so much plastic. It was just piled high – dusty and totally undesirable. I couldn’t help but thinking that it was such a stark contrast to the highly branded objects we’re sold through advertising that I studied in the first semester. However, all of this ends up in places like this.

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It was very interesting seeing office goods such as this binder amongst the junk… I felt like it was some comment on how all these decisions are made up in offices by people totally detatched from the impact that they are having on the real, physical world, just to make money. It strangely reminded me of this quote from JG Ballard:

“Without the reptiles, the lagoons and the creeks of office blocks half submerged would have had a strange dream-like beauty, but the iguanas and basilisks brought the fantasy down to earth. As their seats in the one-time boardrooms indicated, the reptiles had taken over the city. Once again they were the dominant form of life”. – The Drowned World by Ballard

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Old blinds could be an interesting building material as they could create a modular system which could manifest many different forms.

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The thing that made me the most sad was that everything was just such bad quality. It wasn’t really worth giving old dressers like these made of chipboard a new use, the material just wasn’t worth it, it wasn’t valuable to start with (perhaps the product it was a part of was made to seem valuable through advertising) and it isn’t valuable now.

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Even outside was just piles and piles of rubbish to be sorted through for anything potentially valuable and discarded. It reminded me of the idea of “mining in landfill” referenced quite often, but the one that I remember is in The Toaster Project. And it made me consider the types of character who might do this.

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A character – The Miner/Maker

I went along to the electronics section of Tayside Reuse Centre after that and met the man who fixes microwaves and many other electronics there. It was really fun to imagine him as a character in my made-up dystopia, he would be the expert dystopian maker.

He had collected many many duplicate things over months of scavenging the rubbish passing through the recycling centre, sorting things out and looking for only specific objects that he knew to be useful. These were neatly arranged around his workshop as a components set not easily rivalled by hardware stores.

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The Hilltown Market

Next I took a trip up to the market in Hilltown, Dundee to see what I could find there. Once again I was faced with piles of junk – just cheap plastic products that had been discarded (despite many of them still useable).

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Once again the shop owners seemed to me like characters of the dystopia. Perhaps taking the dirty act of scavenging in their own hands to find treasures that they would sell on to customers not willing to search themselves.

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One of the most interesting things I found (but couldn’t afford) was a pigeon clock which completely manually processed time data for when pigeon racers were arriving.

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The Barras Market

I also took a look around The Barras Market in Glasgow – yet sadly it was mostly shut when I arrived. It was still incredible seeing all the outside stalls and just piles and piles of rubbish.

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When I sum up my experience scavenging, I made an interesting realisation. I’ve spent all this time designing for a dystopia somewhere far in the future, but we’re already living the dystopia, in landfills and pollution, it’s just hidden from us through the sparkly world of branding.

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