Past event


This international, interdisciplinary conference on the materiality, spatiality and processing of waste in the early modern workshop proposes to examine acts of disposal, displacement, removal, and abeyance – in short, the getting rid of unwanted things – and the consequences these carry for the study of early modern material culture.

How did the apparent formlessness of this discarded matter – the residues, the shavings, the piles – generate new ideas for forms or find new life through changes in state engendered by slaking, burning, distilling or casting? What disposal flows led household waste – egg shells, stale bread, stove ash – to enter the space of the studio as artistic material or cleaning product?

The conference will foreground waste as the material expression of practices of ordering and classification by which people adjudicated between collection and disposal, wanted and unwanted, salvation and loss. In reimagining the discarded past, we intend to test the usefulness of contemporary formulations – secondary product cycles, material fatigue, metabolic flows, sustainability, recycling – while also proposing new typologies and categories.

‘Wastework' is organised by Francesca Borgo (St Andrews/Bibliotheca Hertziana) and Ruth Ezra (St Andrews/eikones) as part of the Lise Meitner Research Group ‘Decay, Loss, and Conservation in Art History'.

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