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GALLERY: Garbage Disposal Unit

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

by Lydia Swinney


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Through working on this project, I wanted to develop a series of work that explored structures of power and production in contemporary society. By using the image of the torso in a suit as the focal point in each piece, I investigated to what extent I could manipulate, fracture and reassemble ideas of an authoritative figure.

Inspired by the writings of The Situationist International, I produced this body of work in response to their critique on consumer culture as a result of advanced capitalism. Gilles Ivain, a member of the movement during the 1950s, critiques a society enthralled by the power dynamics of production and consumption in the book "Formulary for a New Urbanism" (1953), he goes on to say:

“Everyone is hypnotised by work and by comfort: by the garbage disposal unit, by the lift, by the bathroom, by the washing machine. This state of affairs born of a rebellion against the harshness of nature, has far overshot its goal - the liberation of man from from material cares - and become a life-destroying obsession. Young people everywhere have been allowed to choose between love and a garbage disposal unit. Everywhere they have chosen the garbage disposal unit.”

In terms of the colour and composition, I wanted to develop a relationship between each collage to portray ideas of the symbolic nature of re-produced imagery we see in the every-day media against both natural and artificial environments.

Working with these pieces on a smaller scale has allowed me to focus in on creating intricate layers and textures. Firstly, I have created backgrounds using found imagery such as graphic patterns, impressions of nature and stylised text from magazine articles, I have then put these through the printer to print the figure in the suit over the top. Lastly, I have applied marker pen and acrylic paint using expressive brush strokes and abstract patterns to obscure and rework detail.

My intent has been to develop a series of collages that require a longer period of time to be spent considering the subject matter of this project, inviting the viewer to slow down to dissect and form meaning.


Lydia Swinney is a Sheffield-based visual artist exploring westernised structures of power, production and consumption and how this affects the individual.


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