Following on from my interest in Mark Bradford I have started to read around the liminal figure of the ragpicker.
‘But how does the ragpicker make the historical leftover perform? The ragpicker is a liminal figure, literally living at the fringes of society: in Paris, they resided in shanty towns on the edge of town as part of the community of zoniers (‘zone’-dwellers or those living in the transition space between the city and countryside)’
‘The ragpicker, first, stands for the undoing of established historiography and the institutions that support it. Aleida Assmann has pointed out that the rubbish dump and the archive, while seemingly each other’s opposite, are inextricably connected. The limit between the archive and the rubbish dump marks the limit between what is and is not deemed of cultural value, and for that reason, archive and rubbish heap ‘can be read as emblems and symptoms of cultural memory and forgetting’ (Assmann 2006: 384, my translation). Refuse is what the archive refuses. For Assmann an archive of rubbish would make ‘the invisible as such, namely the basic structures of the cultural production of value and non-value, visible’ .’
the ragpicker’s diligent archiving of waste is not only a symbol for challenging existing master narratives in cultural memory, but also for the undoing of the conditions of possibility that enabled these master narratives. As Philip Rosen wrote: ‘the only way to recover the elements excluded from conventional historiography is to reject its form and terms’ (Rosen 2001: 15).