Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Studio Arts; Anthropology
Project Advisor 1
Project Advisor 2
This is an experimental anthropology. It attempts to look from the substance of objects outward, to identify the imagined worlds congealed in a loose category of materials: the humanness, the histories, the memories, the labour, the fictions, the figures, and the visions congealed in the substance of ‘plastics’. Different from the “new materialisms”, I take up this question of “what would happen” through the lens of the substance that makes up some (so many) objects, rather than an always congealed thingness, to meditate on the possible realities synthetic materials imply (and successfully manifest!) for an abstract “America”.
I took this project as an opportunity to see what would happen if I explored cultural reality, hegemony, affect-like imaginaries, and formations of history, through a substance. Taking anthropology as a writing and research form entangling and inquiring through installation and performance art as a physical form, I investigate the material lore, infrastructural implications, historical possibility, and contemporary state of plastic in relation to the production of a hegemonic idea of American culture, in which history is produced as linear time, contexts of war carry on long past their historical moment, the individual is reproduced as a consumer, and industries communicate through metaphors of a domestic front under threat.
The project moves through a historical chapter with this lens in mind and then into two ethnographic chapters that aim to present a vision into some individual and collective experiences of material realities in relation to plastics in the contemporary moment. This vision is guided by a vision-symbol of ‘splay’, where objects and plastics are not envisioned as either accumulations or organizations, but rather as uncanny left-over human-moments past enduring time, weather, and other forces, marking out the unmarkable rhizomatic circulation of experiences, exchanges, pathways, and migrations of people, times, and things. For this reason, my writing does not take on the complications of either toxicity or globality, and engages instead with such circulation or splaying through the suggestion of ‘waste-debris’, where plastics as waste on the streets and in imagined places and in memories of childhood are processed as scattered moments, utopias, and adjacent worlds, in the form of debris amidst the splay.
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Lasher, Lily B., "In Plastic: Sturdy Materiality as Debris Splay: A Cultural History, Ethnographic Experiment, and Installation Performance Dwelling on 'Plastic' in American Visions" (2018). Senior Projects Fall 2018. 12.