Skip to content Skip to footer

Museum Tinguely, Basel presents Territories of Waste

September 14, 2022–January 8, 2023
Along with climate change and mass extinction, the growth of environmental toxins has once again been a focus of artistic activity as a result of the current planetary catastrophe. Territories of Waste, a group exhibition at Museum Tinguely, focuses on this contemporary artistic engagement and inquires as to where such dialogues are occurring right now. It also offers a fresh look at the art of the latter half of the 20th century from this perspective. The group exhibition aims to be a collection of diverse viewpoints that takes seriously the dynamically mixed nature of waste as a structuring concept. The exhibition is landscape-like in its spread and is interconnected by overarching themes that form a network throughout.
By incorporating rubbish and scrap metal into their creations in the 1960s, the artists of Nouveau Réalisme and Junk Art (including Jean Tinguely) expressed the tremendous social and economic transformation from post-war destitution to a culture focused on consuming and discarding. In contrast to the 1960s, when garbage piled up at landfills and was recklessly dumped in the environment, trash is now largely undetectable in the western regions of the globalized globe. A sophisticated waste economy frees us from trash, sludge, and the byproducts of our consumeristic way of life. What we discard is still there after being sorted, taken out, removed, burned, cleansed, composted, repurposed, placed in abandoned mines, or exported; it is just out of the way.
The hidden and repressed ecological, geological, and global circumstances of modern consumerism are emphasized in current discourse and creative practice. Increased public awareness of the unseen micro-dimension of trash has occurred in tandem with this. The ubiquity of such micro-pollutants in the world’s air, soil, water, ice, and living things—even in places where humans have never set foot—has had a profound effect on how we view nature. Artists today are particularly interested in the territorial waste movements inside colonial geographies. Geological issues are also being addressed alongside the global ones, with a “geospheric” perspective that considers the ecological implications of raw material extraction, particularly in mining.

In neo-colonial frameworks of exploitation, the territorial movements of waste are addressed along colonial geographies that include both the exporting of trash and the waste produced during raw material extraction. Here, one area of emphasis is on the metals and rare earths required for the manufacture of electronic communication devices.

Today’s industry of waste disposal is increasingly automated. Modern waste management facilities represent the division between society and its trash in their design. It is intended for waste and its disposal to be as undetectable as feasible. At the same time, social hierarchy, exclusion, and even stigmatization are all directly related to contact with waste materials and the physical labor required for cleaning. This societal aspect, which includes racial and gender-related issues, serves as a second thematic focus.

The exhibition also includes pieces that address ocean, water, and air pollution. They firmly put a stop to the still common romantic notion of untainted nature and make waste’s microscopic dimension, which is not immediately obvious, visible. Our trash is now found everywhere in the ecosphere.

A fourth area of concentration is what is known as Territories of Waste, which includes war zones, artificial wastelands, devasted landscapes, and disaster areas. Our industrialized and nuclear era’s imprints are seen in the landscape. Wasteland, however, refers to both loss and promise due to its dual connotation of both sterile, unproductive soil and fallow, underutilized land.

The exhibition furthers its exploration of garbage and cleaning in the digital domain in a different segment that transcends physical and geographical boundaries. What transpires to the data we “trash”? It turns out that data doesn’t simply vanish even after being removed.

Finally, the presentation investigates the potential of trash for new ways of thinking and living, as well as for new relationships, using the notions of compost, humus, and cohabitation. These pieces cross over and connect the fields of nature and culture, as well as people and their surroundings.

Artists: Arman, Helène Aylon, Lothar Baumgarten, Anca Benera & Arnold Estefán, Joseph Beuys, Rudy Burckhardt, Carolina Caycedo, Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, Julien Creuzet, Agnes Denes, Douglas Dunn, Julian Aaron Flavin, Nicolás García Uriburu, Hans Haacke, Eric Hattan, Eloise Hawser, Fabienne Hess, Barbara Klemm, Max Leiß, Diana Lelonek, Jean-Pierre Mirouze, Hira Nabi, Otobong Nkanga, Otto Piene, realities:united, Romy Rüegger, Ed Ruscha, Tita Salina & Irwan Ahmett, Tejal Shah, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Raul Walch, Pinar Yoldaş.

Curator: Dr. Sandra Beate Reimann
Opening: September 13, 6:30pm


Ennui Public Haze (Stream Plays), 2022: September 17, 11am–12:30pm
Performance: Walk with artist Romy Rüegger.
More walks: Saturday, September 17; Saturday, September 24; Sunday, September 25; Friday, November 11; Sunday, January 8, 2023. Starting at 11am, 1:30pm, and 4pm

Roundtable with Hira Nabi and Tita Salina & Irwan Ahmett: September 22, 7pm
Moderated by Alice Wilke and Dr. Sandra Beate Reimann

Lecture performance with Dr. Pinar Yoldaş: October 20, 7pm
An Ecosystem of Excess; Metabolising Plastics, 2022

Art Taaalkssss at Institute Art Gender Nature, HgK FHNW: Mierle Laderman Ukeles: November 3, 5:30pm, Elise Lammer and Dr. Sandra Beate Reimann in conversation with the artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles (in English)
HGK FHNW, Dreispitz, auditorium (D1.04) and via Zoom (

Lecture performance with Anca Benera and Arnold Estefán: November 24, 7pm
Testimony of a Sandgrain, 2022

Museum Tinguely
Paul Sacher-Anlage 1
CH-4002 Basel
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–6pm,
Thursday 11am–9pm

[email protected]
Facebook / Instagram