William Randall

Technology is garbage.

I do not primarily intend to say that technology, as a hyper-accelerated consumer market, fills up landfills with toxic waste, though it does. Nor do I primarily mean that the tech sector, with its breathless marketing wrapped in utopian dreams, long ago stopped being cute and started being destructive (also true).

I do mean this as polemic. Technology has granted human beings great power, and we often hear of the Anthropocene, this new geologic era we may inhabit, spoken of in terms of that power. We can now transform the Earth in our image. So we get sublime photos of machine-carved canyons, geoengineering schemes to fix the climate, and grand speculative fantasies about the world we can create with our gadgets and code.

But the Anthropocene actually refers to the fact that a layer of plastic is building up in the geologic record. That undigestible substance will be our gift to eternity because our technology pales before our politics and economy.

In this spirit, my recent work has looked askance at trash and the systems we use to gather and ignore it, as well as building a critique of activism and political action. This body of work draws on landfills and trash heaps, while questioning both the systems that make them and the activist frameworks we often use to apprehend them. This work begins with lens-based documentary, with video and photos later treated and rearranged into essayistic forms.

The first work here, “Still, Life,” (2016) a short video loop, presents as a found object some plastic flowers, a bouquet for weddings or gravestones, chanced upon near an anonymous urban landfill. It is Dutch Baroque for the post-human Anthropocene, a punchline for the days when we’re no longer around to aestheticize and appreciate.

The second body of work, part of a much longer photo series called “Things He Thought Possible” (2015-2016) began while I was on an urban planning trip in a country in the Global South. By omitting the country, the people, and the purposes and failures of that well-intentioned trip, I hope to strip away human intention and render more fully the lives of animals in our waste without passing judgement or calling to action.

There are no grand schemes or inspirations here, just a few dark punchlines and a hint of the world without us.


I build things and tear them down. Some of the things I build are houses, or models for houses. I make landscapes, systems, maps and plans, in the form of drawings, sculptures, photographs, and videos which I then dismantle bit by bit. It’s a bit like making sandcastles, but instead of plastic buckets I use cameras, inkjet printers, and CNC-fabricated molds.

I also build and tear down ideas. I like this part better, because you’ve done it too. Even if you never build a house or chair or artificial kidney, we all think about it, building castles in the air. Then in my work I proceed to tear them down. This may be a story gone wrong, a slide lecture that takes a sinister turn, or just a film that ruptures at the seams of what you thought it was going to be. Sometimes these ruptures are funny, sometimes low and mournful. They always leave you within the pleasure of ruins, without a chance of tetanus.