Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, 16 February 2019

TRASH! Waste and Excess in Queer Cultures was a symposium exploring all things trashy and excessive in LGBTQ+ life and culture. It was organised by Dr Diarmuid Hester with the generous support of Encompass Network Cambridge, the Leverhulme Trust, and the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of English, LGBTQ+@Cam, and Public Engagement Starter Fund.

In the classic 1970 film by Paul Morrissey, Andy Warhol’s Trash, trans icon Holly Woodlawn declares: “Just because people throw it out and don’t have any use for it, doesn’t mean it’s garbage.” This line and its delivery by a queer performer is a kind of motto, emblazoned on an imaginary banner draped over the day’s talks, all of which engaged with the idea that queer culture approaches the subject of waste and garbage in inventive and unusual ways. Ever finding themselves marginalised, many queer writers and artists turn to the leftovers and castoffs of mainstream culture and society, transforming the trashy, the outmoded, and the abject into sublime works of art, transgressive performances, or radically innovative writing and cinema. 

TRASH! sifted through the garbage heap of history to shed new light on a scintillating seam of queer trash from the past but the present and future of this tradition are just as central to our investigations. What happens to a queer trash tradition in an era of homonormativity, for instance: when queer lives are more and more part of the mainstream and commodified accordingly, what role does trash have to play in queer culture? More broadly, what role does queer trash have in a world that is increasingly threatened by environmental waste? How are contemporary queer artists and writers confronting the material remnants of the so-called anthropocene?

List of participants included:

Dr Fiona Anderson (Art History, Newcastle)

Dr Benjamin Bateman (English, Edinburgh)

Dr Elena Gorfinkel (Film, KCL)

Dr Abeyamí Ortega (Media, Loughborough)

Dr Owen Parry (Performance, IASH, Edinburgh)

Dr Christopher Schmidt (English, CUNY)

Dr Karl Schoonover (Film, Warwick)

Dr Amy Tooth Murphy (Oral History, RHUL) (unable to attend)



10.00 – 10.30 Registration

Tea and coffee served

10.30 – 10.40 Opening Remarks

Diarmuid Hester (University of Cambridge)

10.40 – 12.00 Panel 1: TRASH Methods (Chair: Diarmuid Hester)

‘After Trash? From Underground Sex Cults to Surveillance Theatre’

Owen G. Parry (University of Edinburgh)

‘TRASHISCAPES: Materializing Urban Waste Space in Hélio Oiticica’s New York’

Christopher Schmidt (LaGuardia Community College, CUNY)

‘Makeup and Scrap Economies According to the Queer Underground’

Karl Schoonover (University of Warwick)

12.00 – 1.00 Lunch

1.00 – 2.20 Panel 2: TRASH Margins (Chair: Natasha Tanna)

‘On the Edge of Despair: Andrew Holleran’s “Dune Creatures”’

Benjamin Bateman (University of Edinburgh)

‘Trashing fronteras: Queer Chicanx & Latinx Art Responses Against Neoliberal Violence in the Mexico-U.S. Borderlands’

Abeyamí Ortega (Loughborough University London)

‘Deviants and Domesticity: Lesbian Pulp Fiction’s Radical Conventionality’

Amy Tooth Murphy (Royal Holloway)

2.20 – 2.40 Break

Tea and coffee will be served

2.40 – 3.40 Panel 3: TRASH Matters (Chair: Jules O’Dwyer)

‘Nostalgia for the Mud: Waste, Loss, and Queer Acts of Preservation’

Fiona Anderson (Newcastle University)

‘On Pissing in the Cinema’

Elena Gorfinkel (King’s College London)

3.45 – 4.30 Roundtable discussion

Featuring symposium participants

4.30 – 4.45 Closing remarks

5.00 – 7.00 Post-TRASH! social

University Centre Wine Bar