Haunting the boneyard

Stickells, Lee and Sully, Nicole (2010). Haunting the boneyard. In Gillian Pye and Simone Schroth (Ed.), Trash culture: Objects and Obsolescence in Cultural Perspective (pp. 59-75) Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang.

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Author Stickells, Lee
Sully, Nicole
Title of chapter Haunting the boneyard
Title of book Trash culture: Objects and Obsolescence in Cultural Perspective
Place of Publication Bern, Switzerland
Publisher Peter Lang
Publication Year 2010
Sub-type Research book chapter (original research)
Open Access Status
Series Cultural Interactions: Studies in the Relationship Between the Arts (CISRA)
ISBN 9783039115532
ISSN 1662-0364
Editor Gillian Pye
Simone Schroth
Volume number 11
Chapter number 4
Start page 59
End page 75
Total pages 17
Total chapters 13
Collection year 2011
Language eng
Formatted Abstract/Summary
Much of the iconic neon signage of the Las Vegas Strip, immortalised in countless films and photographs, lies unplugged and decaying in a parking lot known colloquially as the 'Boneyard'. For many years the voracious development cycles of the city treated these signs as temporary, disposable commercial signifiers. The eternal present of the Strip – an environment dominated by a continual unfolding of new, ever-more spectacular attractions – enforced what seemed a total erasure of its outmoded built fabric. More recently though, the significance of the signage as an element of Las Vegas's built and cultural heritage is being rediscovered and the salvaged and donated contents are being resurrected as part of the city's Neon Museum project. The Boneyard has become one of the city's spectacles, being the site of popular guided tours through the mounds of discarded signs - the melancholy of these unintended monuments providing another type of allure. There are also plans for a more extensive, permanent display of restored signage when the Neon Museum complex is eventually constructed.

The history and projected future of the signage and architectural fragments that lie in the Boneyard demonstrate a complex interplay of spectacle, obsolescence. abandonment, resurrection and memory. The processes of consumption and disposal at work provide fascinating examples of ways in which the characterisation and valuation of the objects is continually shifting and often contradictory. This chapter will outline that history and some of the issues that emerge, particularly in relation to notions of heritage. It will also draw on recent scholarship that points out the ambiguous categorisations of waste and the complexity of processes of disposal- particularly their dynamism and importance to wider social processes (Hetherington 2002; DeSilvey 2006; Edensor 2005a; Edensor 2005b).

Adapting Kevin Hetherington's use of the concept of haunting, it will be suggested that the Boneyard is occupied by the 'ghosts' of unfinished or improper disposal. Simultaneously the relics of the Boneyard are city icons, outmoded technology, industrial waste, captivating ruins and cultural heritage: both trash and treasure. The idea of haunting in relation to the varying resonances and differing valuations at work in the Boneyard will be used as a way to recast processes of disposal in relation to contemporary heritage practice.
© Peter Lang AG, International Academic Publishers, Bern 2010
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Created: Mon, 28 Feb 2011, 12:34:40 EST by Deirdre Timo on behalf of School of Architecture