Airdate: Stuff

The ABC will premiere a new four part series about material consumption to be hosted by Wendy Harmer.

Stuff premieres on Tuesday, March 11 at 8pm on ABC TV1.

“I found myself increasingly dissatisfied with the many books, newspaper columns and documentaries that finger-wag about the way we consume,” says Harmer.

“We consume, they say, because we’re ‘greedy’, ‘unthinking’, to ‘show off’ to ‘have power over others’.

“We are told that consuming is a habit we have to quickly unlearn, as if, somehow, we had only recently learned it. In fact, we humans have been consuming forever. The desire to acquire goods is as much a part of our lives as is the desire to work.”

Press Release

In making this series I wanted to present a view about consumption that was beyond basic academic theory. I wanted to present a human view of consumption.

I found myself increasingly dissatisfied with the many books, newspaper columns and documentaries that finger-wag about the way we consume. We consume, they say, because we’re “greedy”, “unthinking”, to “show off” to “have power over others”.

We are told that consuming is a habit we have to quickly unlearn, as if, somehow, we had only recently learned it.

In fact, we humans have been consuming forever. The desire to acquire goods is as much a part of our lives as is the desire to work.

In researching this topic, I was much inspired by a wonderful book: “The World of Goods – Towards an Anthropology of Consumption” written by Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood (Basic books New York, 1979).

In this book, the authors make the point that consumption cannot be discussed without looking at our social system. In fact, we humans consume for many different reasons – to keep ourselves warm and fed, certainly, but we also consume books, poetry and beautiful objects that inspire; we use goods to celebrate; as gifts; to honour our spiritual life; to express our identity and encode memory.

Therefore, stuff is both the hardware and the software of human existence.

I am very proud to have made a documentary about consumption that does not contain the usual footage of factory smokestacks, landfill tips and bulging supermarket trolleys.

Instead, it features many happy human faces and all their wonderful stuff! It’s a study of a love affair as much as anything else. – Wendy Harmer.

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