Dumponaut, a dumpster home

Energy & Sustainability Science
Dumponaut, a dumpster home

The Dumponaut, an art project envisioning a home made out of a dumpster.

There are countless external controls on our existence, and a big one is the trade of capital for goods. The loophole lives in dumpsters: where there is surplus, there is an exit from the system. but it isn’t a true exit – it’s a temporary glimpse through a porthole of autonomy if you will. in reality, dumpster diving is still a form of dependence.

The Dumponaut (aka Lil’ Takeover) is a kind of ode to that dialogue. Yes, I could live in this thing, yes it cost me no more than $50 dollars to make, but i couldn’t have possibly created the materials i’m building with – i have neither the skill, nor the resources, nor the money, to do so. This begs the question: if I were to eliminate the materials i found in the dumpster, what would I do?

10 thoughts on “Dumponaut, a dumpster home

  1. Marc says:

    It might make for a great statement and spark some much needed discussion, but fundamentally cities only exist because people choose to live and work in close proximity to take advantage of trade opportunities that city life can bring. This is true from the smallest village to the largest metropolis. People living within close proximity of each other leads to problems that the community must address, most relating to health, safety, sanitation, and so on. So the community creates and enforces rules, and decides also how to fund the enforcement of those rules.

    The pursuit of total autonomy does have some appeal. To think that you could have everything you need without having to trade with others. To be free from the influence of ultra-competitive or anti-competitive players in our economic system. But this type of autonomy would almost never be accepted on a large scale in a developed city. Even today, the homeless are tolerated, but only barely so. Cities may create “systems” to deal with their homeless populations, but they don’t want them to be autonomous – they want them to merge back into society, into full employment, paying taxes and playing by the rules. Whenever a shanty-town starts to grow successfully under a bridge the city will send out crews to tear it down. Consider the things that cities make against the law:

    1. Camping on public property. Same for sleeping in public.
    2. Building without a permit (and the $x,xxx.xx fee).
    3. Living in a shelter without an occupancy permit (and the $x,xxx.xx city inspection). Most cities require running water and a connection to the local electric utility to qualify.
    4. Hunting or fishing without a license ($xx.xx fee)
    5. Raising livestock unless you own a large piece of land AND you live where it is permitted.
    6. Owning property without paying PROPERTY TAX every YEAR.
    7. Open flame regulations and permits.
    8. Slaughtering or butchering animals for personal consumption.

    How long would you be allowed to live in this thing before it is hauled away by the city for non-compliance with one or more of their rules? If you claim it’s a residence you have the occupation permit to worry about. If you claim it’s a vehicle, well, you won’t be allowed to sleep in it on public property. Even if you could pull it off, other city residents would point out that you’re not paying your fair share of the taxes for police, landfills (even though you’re reducing waste), fire department, and so on.

    Most of these rules apply also to rural areas, so you really don’t see many people pulling this off successfully, even deep in the mountains. State parks make you pay a fee just to walk in. National forests are free but you must keep moving your campsite every 14 days (which is actually a good idea for sanitation), but you are not allowed to plant crops or herd livestock. Hunting and fishing licenses are still required. You must be able to carry everything you own on your back.

    Your only chance for living truly autonomously are if you are an indigenous native to your area and your government has provided you with a reservation. And then you must follow the rules set by the leaders of the reservation. Everybody else – you’re screwed.

    1. ngtvfdbk says:

      yes! this is exactly why I created the Dumponaut – your comments illustrate the legal and fiscal pressures which exist and must be taken into consideration when discussing the childish fantasy of autonomy. In theory, autonomy in a city seems an impossibility, a clever oxymoron not worth pursuing. As you point out, true autonomy in any context is impossible.

      what i am interested in is the fact that autonomy from the pressures you list *still exists*, in daily practice. i want to illustrate *varying degrees* of autonomy, not necessarily a true freedom from any or all pressures (nor for a large number of people). it isnt pretty, but there are plenty of people who utilize free city resources on a daily basis, without paying taxes, without “giving back” (fiscally) to the city. squatters, the homeless, people who open fire hydrants because they just want to cool off/want a drink of water- these people are operating on the motives for base-rate survival. i am in no way condoning or discouraging any of these practices, but i do want recognize their existence. because there is the “walden pond” fantasy, and there is real life.

      i am curious about the line between necessary survival (the do-whatever-it-takes kind) and the fiscal ability/obligation to do so. The Dumponaut is not a solution for the problem of surviving based on fiscal ability -at best it is a temporary half-way home of a solution. Rather, the Dumponaut is a make-believe situation: considering that any one of us may be put out on the street for whatever reason, without anything at all, the Dumponaut serves as a mobile unit that, for a specific individual, provides shelter, and if placed correctly, camouflage from some of the pressures effected by city infrastructure. it is a vehicle built for the sole purpose of making do. how it is used, or hidden, is up to the user.

      thanks for comments/thanks Make!

  2. thehead says:

    He is wondering how the prop from ‘derelict’ got added to make?

    :D seriously though, dumpster diving is a form of dependence, ok, but it is a form that is in a symbiotic relationship with our society. If i can take what people dispose of and turn it into something useful to ME, doesnt that reduce my dependence on 1 owner products?

  3. Exhibit69 says:

    I think the word you were looking for was parasitic, as the homeless, by definition of the state, are not contributing to society. Since our modern states are based on the consumption of consumer products, there is no value to society in the re-purposing of goods.

    1. Joshua Hernandez says:

      To be precise about these biological terms and their analogues in society:
      Symbiosis describes any situation in which two organisms live in close quarters for a long time. Parasitism, mutualism (in which both parties benefit), and commensalism (in which one party benefits and the other is not seriously hurt or helped) all fit that description. Those who scavenge for cast-offs are usually considered commensalists.

      A society, especially one that thrives off the continual purchase and obsolescence of non-durable goods, still has to deal with the accumulation of waste and diminution of resources. Scavengers take our waste, not our resources, and suggest ways that we can do the same.

      At the global scale, the consumer societies tend to unfairly and destructively exploit the resources of the rest of the world, so that the “parasites” of the first world are usually its least serious offenders.

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net

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