‘Chaos of the everyday’ -learning to love to hate the leaf blower

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This model of leaf blower is a Kingfisher GPOWER2. From 2012, it possesses 2600kw power output with extendable nozzle, vacuum mode and harness. It produces 101db – equivalent to a jet taking off at 305 meters.

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from Dudley, D. ‘The devil’s hairdryer: Hell is other people with leaf blowers’ (2016) [blog] CityLab, available at: https://medium.com/citylab/the-devils-hair-dryer-68dc74a9fd9d [accessed: 13/12/18]
You need not look far to find the extent to which the leaf blower causes controversy in Western society, and the complaint generally revolves around the noise and air pollution which they generate within tranquil suburbia. More overlooked however, is the leaf blower’s position as a highly political object. As highlighted in Jules Boykoff’s ‘the leaf blower, capitalism and the atomization of everyday life’ “The leaf blower also illuminates …the psychological propensity to disperse responsibility to the encouragement of hyperindividualized behavior to the intensification, racialization, and aggravation of labor relations.”¹ It’s ability to aggressively enforce an idealised depiction of how the landscape ‘should’ operate leads to this hyper-individualism, with its users wielding excessive power over the things that would otherwise seem so trivial. It also signifies a divide between spaces which traditionally play into gender power structures. The heavy engineering of traditional gardening equipment contributed to the outdoor space as the preserve of masculinity, the indoor remaining predominately female orientated. Gardening power tools like the leaf blower perpetuate a desire for the most exaggerated of equipment to perform its function, a ‘technophallus’ enters the space. A term coined by Steve Waksman writing on the history of electric guitars, “the fusion of man and machine…his sexual prowess”² can also be applied to the leaf blower.

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In working with the hate of the leaf blower, let us entertain the notion of their being everyday unknown ‘chaoses’ – benign entities we are not aware of until they are present and overwhelming. They may occur in any scenario and we must arm ourselves against them in order to extinguish their threat. ‘Journeys with my leaf blower’ is a method for actively performing this role and embracing the complexities of this power tool; personalising it, living with it. The technophallus frames a language for discussing this object with others and building a shared understanding of what this item represents to different people when removed from the context of the suburban garden. “We, like the leaf blower, can alter space as we move through it, if a little at a time.”³

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In extending access to the leaf blower across these spaces, a process of nullifying the technophallus can occur. We can infiltrate these spaces previously reserved for those concerned with clearing their driveways and interrogate where one may choose to use one, opening a dialogue to explore other variations of what the leaf blower can be and why it is important to other individuals in tackling their own everyday chaoses.

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When the leaf blower enters the indoor realms and the private lives of its individual owners, its function is re-applied to other seemingly mundane but nonetheless chaotic situations. In this particular scenario, one couple’s row is quickly extinguished with the use of the ‘leaf’ blower. Perhaps there is a case for the tool as a cathartic object, one capable of very literally ‘blowing away’ tense situations.

And what would a world in which the leaf blower is carried on every person as an object of accessory look like? Indeed, how may it inhabit other spaces where feuds are likely to occur? There is a suggestion here that a power tool like the leaf blower may tap into something more primal in human nature, intertwining not just with a desire to impose control on the environment, but also as an instrument that pitches itself against other models of ‘leaf’ blower in threatening situations. A ‘diffuser’ of these incidents. As for where and how the personalisation of this tool for the individual user may occur, if it is to establish itself as an object which is potentially accessible to anyone then it may become the responsibility of the workplace to issue them. Or perhaps they become available with multiple accessories for any specific chaos commissioned with the requirements of said user…

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Bibliography

  1. Boykoff, J. (2011)’The Leaf Blower, Capitalism, and the Atomization of
    Everyday Life’, Capitalism Nature Socialism, 22:3, 95-113, DOI: 10.1080/10455752.2011.593896 pp. 97
  2. Waksman, S. (2001) ‘nstruments of desire: the electric guitar and the shaping of musical experience’, harvard University Press, Cambridge: Massachusetts. pp. 188
  3. Boykoff, J. (2011)’The Leaf Blower, Capitalism, and the Atomization of
    Everyday Life’, Capitalism Nature Socialism, 22:3, 95-113, DOI: 10.1080/10455752.2011.593896 pp. 110

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