Wasted Time: Exploitation and the life of the Factory

If architecture is implicated in global waste streams that continue to make the planet uninhabitable, this thesis prompts reflection on consumer habits by harnessing the empathic power of storytelling to transform a building—an anonymous plastics factory into the narrator of a tale about junk and justice.

    The research for this thesis began through an interest in extractive practices, oppression, space travel, and their effect on the lives of individuals through their individual Points of View. P.O.V. morphed into themes of Plastics, Oil, and Voyage and questioning what lies ahead for the future of our planet. But all of it in an attempt to expose and highlight the entangled relationships we have with other humans through consumption.

In came the factory and we are now in 2030, when Earth’s carrying capacity will reach a tipping point due to colossal material extraction and overproduction. As commercial spaceflight offers the one-percent a way out, everyone else must prepare to live with their waste. Instead of accepting culpability for these dire circumstances, humans will blame factories: architectures that have been optimized for capital gain since the Industrial Revolution. A byproduct of logistical management, this building type is a microcosm of the world’s most complicated socio-material relations and a witness to the abusive nature of consumerism. This thesis cultivates new proximities to waste by anthropomorphizing the Factory, representing its point of view, and reorienting human beings to their own exploitative systems.



Desperate for attention and attempting to please its nurturers, the Factory broadcasts a signal of distress, stating it wants to fix things as it sees - yearning for a world where it can continue to produce more and go on pleasing its creators and caregivers but cannot stand their inability to confront disaster.

The factory quotes the poems of the late Xu Lizhi, a Chinese poet and former factory worker who committed suicide at the age of 24 while working in a factory operated by Foxconn - Apple’s largest manufacturing partner at the time. These hauntingly explicit poems provide a small window into the mind of a restless and overworked young mind attempting to cope with life in the production cycle. The Factory makes no attempt to disclose what it means by its usage of these tales. We know it is hurting but we don’t know if it’s being truthful.

Nonetheless, The Factory wants us to be aware of its existence and ties to it through the hyperobject that is plastic.

The Factory oversees the production and distribution of plastic consumer objects.

The Factory recognizes the unhappiness of its mortal counterparts as they live with trash that belongs to a wealthier class of astro-expats.

The Factory, exhausted from human inaction, decides to periodically launch their trash into outer space.

The Factory wishes to expose humans to their excessive practices by making explicit shared dependencies on the oil industry.

The Factory broadcasts a disorienting animation to devices born from its insides that redescribes the circulation of products and material flows.

The Factory will not disclose its location but wants you to know that its reach is expansive.

Lizhi’s words echo throughout this broadcast to unearth ties to our self-created distractions from the real, and our attempts to further divide ourselves from the hardships of others. Just like last time, and the many times before - when you last threw a piece of plastic into the recycling bin without giving it a second thought. On a night like this, when you received an advertisement for the latest version of your perfectly functioning handheld device. When someone plunged to the ground, and without thinking it twice you are deluded to sustain the Factory.

As Lizhi, writes:

I try to decide if I should go into the river too,
to struggle with them, to clench my teeth,
I try to decide, as the sun sinks beneath the hills


This is a reluctance we carry with us each day and one that is visualized throughout these scroll drawings. No matter how pressing the issue seems, our daily consumption has become implicated in unimaginable oppressive cycles, making it much easier to forget, than to remind ourselves how every choice and purchase we make could affect the life of someone across the earth.

There is a mixture of familiar scenes in the broadcast and scrolls: malls, cities, skies - junkyards. Others, we could only describe as things. But regardless of what they are, all things come from somewhere - in the case of The Factory, these have come from deep within the earth and time. So just as it claims, It produces, we use, but we all consume.

Few are those who are able to accrue more than the rest, and if you are listening to this, you might be one of the few. But even fewer are those who have decided they would no longer attempt to deal with a damaged planet, choosing our celestial neighbors instead. If this is the case, those of us staying back need to act fast without the need for a steel-bodied being to pursue its version of salvation.

It is my position that this can no longer stand, the global consumption chain as it exists must change and for this to happen we need to acknowledge our ties to the factory. At the end of the chain lies the consumer but at the top of this growing trash pile are corporations and factories behind them.





Oil

In 2030, the demand and use of fossil fuels has plateaued and the oil giants scramble to latch onto new, more diversified markets. Whilst still an important chunk of the economy, the power of oil slowly extinguishes as the world rapidly shifts to renewables following vital legislation restraining the negative impacts of the energy economy. Nations imposed limitarianist policies to force the small-but-powerful super-rich citizens and corporations to come to the aid of the warming planet they helped create. In addition to these policies, the billions in subsidies provided to oil companies by the rest of the population were freed up for space exploration programmes in the U.S.

Although far from a techno utopia, these programmes hope to bring back technological solutions to the problems we face within our marble as it drifts through space.

During a time when it is easier to imagine a company like Amazon on the moon than seeing the end of capitalism, we must question how we got here and ensure it isn’t just up to the few people hoarding the wealth to decide the fate of the Earth and its inhabitants. Our problems will not be so simply resolved after being in the making for so long. We know our future is not in fossil fuels, yet we continuously rely on these and push our own deadlines further down a dimming future. The state of Texas’ reliance on this industry has left scars on the land which was senselessly abused for our oil-filled desires -  polluting lands and water bodies, top and subsoils, pumping the air with chemicals. This is not exclusive to this state or the U.S. however, worldwide our systems of exports and production continuously create progressively obvious consequences for ourselves and our environment.

We’re not just here to talk about oil, there are many great pieces on it. It is cheap, it is messy, it is a commodity, and it is everywhere. But have you given a second thought to the countless cups, bowls, caps, straps, forks, straws, glass, and anything containing parts? We know the movements which have taken place against these cumbersome materials - but it becomes  background noise when it comes to their “hidden” places: gadget and machine parts - our everyday technological marvels the size of our pocket, the mat under our feet preventing the plastic wheels of your chair from scratching a vinyl floor, it is everywhere but seemingly nowhere. Where did it come from? Where will it go?


Plastic

Our foremothers’ and fathers’ mistake was the complacency created by this industry. We continue facing the same foggy future, now riddled with ungovernable plastic and an exigent need to descale. Do you truly know where the keyboard you’re using came from? What about where it will go once you deem it not clicky enough? Whether it’s attached to your laptop or connected through a plastic-coated USB cable. These are the synthesis of fossil remains, manufactured for your convenience - until it breaks a couple months down the road.

Plastic has become such a traceable necessity during our daily lives, it is a hyperobject as described by Timothy Morton. It’s so far stretched out in the human timeline that it has found its way into practically every aspect of our lives no matter who or where you are. It comes in all packaging, all tags, all computers, all sizes, and more readily accessible than anything else in our globalized society. And since its invention as a replacement for billiard balls, it never got better - it just got cheaper. Our use of plastics for convenience is not new, there are parts of the human world that could not have been accomplished had it not been for this material: blood transfusions, machinery used in hospitals, to sterile objects meant to contain infectious materials.

While we collectively scramble to clean up oceans and try to move away from this toxic part of our history,this will not be the long term solution. The most important thing we have learned from decades of space travel is the need to be resourceful and keep everything we use in mind. The shit you flush down the toilet will be freeze-dried and stored in bags, the packaging for your dehydrated meal must be stored somewhere and can’t simply be littered into space. So how can we force people to think this way about our own planet when it’s as easy as talking to your corporate-sponsored home-assistant to reorder that toy your child just broke whilst still grasping the broken toy on its way to the trash bin.


Voyage

The age of commercial spaceflight is here, and the possible abandonment of our home looms nearer with each trek. Recycling programs remain an inefficient facade by big plastic to convince us to continue consumption while avoiding the problem and only making matters worse. We can do better.

A vast, empty nether - at times containing gasses, solids, plasma here and there. Then there’s us; floating in the vast and expanding unknown. Humans have relied on buildings for shelter for millenia and while we get increasingly clever with our descriptions of these and for the value they hold (whether culturally or through capital) we rely on the same archaic methods for their construction, entangling ourselves with analogous practices across the globe. It is known that buildings account for a large share in the process of extraction and trade of resources extracted from the home planet, producing byproducts at almost every step of the way. From the fuel bringing the materials into the jobsite, to the displacement of dirt excavated for a foundation,and the creation of laboral issues created in a different part of the world for the shiny, durable plastic cladding shaped by tens to hundreds of hands and embodied travel from its extraction in texas, the trek it goes through in a ten inch pipe across territories, into the foundry of a chemical plant where it eventually finds itself in a container bound for China where it will encounter more artificial landscapes and will be transformed into your next amazon purchase, wrapped and ready to go at the expense of a worker forced to relieve themselves into plastic bottles so your order arrives on time. But where to next?