Characteristics of the two types of plastiglomerate. (A) In situ plastiglomerate wherein molten plastic is adhered to the surface of a basalt flow. Field book is 18 cm long. (B) Clastic plastiglomerate containing molten plastic and basalt and coral fragments. (C) Plastic amygdales in a basalt flow. (D) Large in situ plastiglomerate fragment. Adhered molten plastic was found 15 cm below the surface. Note the protected vegetated location.
Recognition of increasing plastic debris pollution over the last several decades has led to investigations of the imminent dangers posed to marine organisms and their ecosystems, but very little is known about the preservation potential of plastics in the rock record. As anthropogenically derived materials, plastics are astonishingly abundant in oceans, seas, and lakes, where they accumulate at or near the water surface, on lake and ocean bottoms, and along shorelines. The burial potential of plastic debris is chiefly dependent on the material’s density and abundance, in addition to the depositional environment. On Kamilo Beach on the island of Hawaii a new “stone” formed through intermingling of melted plastic, beach sediment, basaltic lava fragments, and organic debris. The material, herein referred to as “plastiglomerate,” is divided into in situ and clastic types that were distributed over all areas of the beach. Agglutination of natural sediments to melted plastic during campfire burning has increased the overall density of plastiglomerate, which inhibits transport by wind or water, thereby increasing the potential for burial and subsequent preservation. This anthropogenically influenced material has great potential to form a marker horizon of human pollution, signaling the occurrence of the informal Anthropocene epoch.
According to the geologic timescale, we are currently living in the Holocene epoch. However, Crutzen and Stoermer proposed the term “Anthropocene” in the year 2000 A.D. to represent the period of time between the latter half of the 18th century and the present day. Although other workers have considered the onset of this informal epoch to have occurred at slightly different times, researchers agree that the Anthropocene is a time span marked by human interaction with Earth’s biophysical system. Geological evidence used in supporting this assertion comes from Holocene ice cores and soil profiles. For example, methane concentrations measured in ice cores display an increase of CH4, which contrasts with the expected decline in CH4 at that time, based on the orbital-monsoon cycle theory. Ruddiman and Thomson propose in 2001 A.D. that this anomalous rise in CH4 can be linked to early agricultural practices in Eurasia. In addition, an increase in atmospheric CO2, as determined from ice cores, was explained by Ruddiman in 2003 as a result of early forest clearance.
Atmospheric compositions and soil management practices are only two indicators of anthropogenic activity, but relatively few examples of solid, human-made materials are preserved in the sediment record. Even rarer are items that are correlatable on a global scale. Given the ubiquity of non-degradable plastic debris on our planet, the possibility of their global preservation is strong. This study presents the first rock type composed partially of plastic material that has strong potential to act as a global marker horizon in the Anthropocene.
Based on a text by Patricia L. Corcoran, Charles J. Moore, Kelly Jazvac
Remnants of our digital discoveries are being dumped worldwide by the millions. After stripping off some valuable metal parts, the left overs are worthless. So called ‘Motherboards’, the main circuit board of a computer have a short life expectancy since new chips are developed with singularitarian speed*. When exposed to a variety of chemical liquids they become alive again. Never before I’ve seen so much beauty in discarded trash. Oil refineries and skyscrapers surround city grids which are overrun by unknown fungi and bacteria. The Russian artist Leonid Tsvetkov creates landscapes which could become ours in a not so distant future, or as he describes it himself: ‘My work focuses on reshaping cultural waste and exploration of social and physical processes. I am interested in the moments where the hard edge geometry of the city becomes organic or there random activity begins to take a highly organized form’.
(*) Technological singularity refers to the hypothetical future emergence of greater-than-human intelligence through technological means. Since the capabilities of such an intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the occurrence of a technological singularity is seen as an intellectual event horizon, beyond which the future becomes difficult to understand or predict. Nevertheless, proponents of the singularity typically anticipate such an event to precede an “intelligence explosion”, wherein superintelligences design successive generations of increasingly powerful minds. The term was coined by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who argues that artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement or brain-computer interfaces could be possible causes of the singularity. The concept is popularized by futurists like Ray Kurzweil and it is expected by proponents to occur around 2045.
In his latest installation, “Seizure”, British artist Roger Hiorns has turned the idea of sculpture inside out. Rather than present a sculpture inside an architectural space, he’s turned every surface of the architectural space into sculpture. Mixing installation art and chemistry, he’s taken an entire abandoned apartment near London’s Elephant & Castle and transformed it into a gemstone. Covering the inside with blue copper sulphate crystals, he’s created an other-worldly, mineralized, glinting mirror of an everyday apartment. Jewels literally glowing from the ceiling and lining the floors…
The scale and production of “Seizure” is ambitious. After reinforcing the walls and ceiling and covering them in plastic sheeting, 80,000 litres of a copper sulphate solution was poured in from a hole in the ceiling. After a few weeks the temperature of the solution fell and the crystals began to grow. The remaining liquid was pumped back out and sent for special chemical recycling.
‘Caves are the earliest forms of dwelling and crystal caves do occur naturally in the form of salt and gypsum caves,’ Roger Hiorns says. ‘And in a way this project is converting a concrete modernist building into a cave. The work isn’t about architecture but there is that element of architectural reversion about it. Plus I am originally from Birmingham, so, for me, being surrounded by concrete is natural.’
Encased in ice-cooled orange suits, scientists explore the Cave of Crystals, discovered a thousand feet (304 meters) below Naica, Mexico, in 2000.
Recognisable objects like a wind rose, a mobile phone, a key, a pair of scissors, a safety pin, a ring and also words and poems were rolled into the still hot asphalt of the constructed footpath. They are ‘modern fossils’ that carry the past with them in a playful way. Hester Oerlemans collected these ‘fossils’ together with the residents and personnel of nursing home ’t Laar and had them placed over the entire stretch of the two hundred meter long footpath, connecting the new and the old part of nursing home ’t Laar.
From the 27th of January until the 12th of February 2010 I will be crossing the Atlantic Ocean on the Sea Dragon to look for plastic debris to feed the growing plastic reef below. Starting in Bermuda I will look for remnants of a society that still needs to disappear. You can follow the adventure on www.plasticreef.com
Paradise Ridge Sculpture Park, Santa Rosa, CA
‘Eocene, sited at the Paradise Ridge Sculpture Grove in Santa Rosa, CA, is a symbolic recreation of the climate of the Eocene geologic period of Northern California, which occurred from 40 to 60 million years go. Within a small region of moss covered rocks, live oak and laurel trees a moisture-laden microclimate has been created by a timed system of misting nozzles attached to the tree limbs emitting periodic rain showers on the area. The lushness of the misted area becomes more pronounced as the surrounding vegetation changes towards a golden brown during the summer months’.
Land Monitor/Fired Volcanic Boulder, 1980
Performance kiln/furnace, 20 ft. long, steel, ceramic fiber blanket, propane, earth, borax, lava boulder, near the J volcano outside Albuquerque, NM.
‘The steel and ceramic fiber blanket kiln was removed at the peak of the firing to expose the mafic (high iron/magnesium – low silica) basalt boulder, from the adjacent volcano, fired to a near-molten temperature, in an attempt for the viewer to physically re-experience the boulder’s birth/origin by returning it to a molten state. The cooled, altered, boulder and fused volcanic sand remained after the firing as a “land monitor,” of similar proportions to the monitor ships (ironclads) of the American Civil War’. – John Roloff –
Time’s Trial On the Geological Imaginary in Contemporary Art
Sometime in the early nineties, the lights went out in modern and contemporary art museums around the world – some would say, paraphrasing Sir Edward Grey, the 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon, not to be switched back on in our lifetime. This darkening of the countless white cubes of museums and galleries alike was meant to accommodate the entry of film into the hallowed space of art; although there had of course been film and video art before (think of Andy Warhol’s Empire or Sleep and Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen respectively), it was really artists like Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Matthew Barney, Stan Douglas, Douglas Gordon, Bill Viola and Gillian Wearing who ushered in the canonization of Hollywood-inflected film art (mostly conceived as spatial installations), and oversaw its subsequent transformation into what was probably the dominant, defining art form of the first half of the decade. Fifteen years on, it is worth remembering that quite a few of these artworks were in essence based on the simple tactic of slowing down, of deceleration; certainly some of the period’s most emblematic pieces (Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho immediately comes to mind, but so do Viola’s films) revolved around the aesthetics of slow motion and the freeze (here we could cite Jeff Wall’s cinematic photographs as a programmatic example). There are many reasons why so many artists active at the very forefront of art’s habitual appropriation of cutting-edge technology (digital in this case) chose to slow down rather than – perhaps the more logical instinct, given that it had become technologically possible – speed up, but the advent of globalization as an everyday economic reality obviously played a major part in this, for the new world order of the electronic global village came with a new scopic regime in which the ceaseless acceleration, accumulation and proliferation of (digital) imagery gave new depth of meaning to the old situationist catchphrase of the “society of the spectacle”. Deceleration (and occasional paralysis) in moving-image-based art came to signal a critical stance not unlike that of the Luddites in early nineteenth-century, Industrial Revolution-era England, and pushing the pause button on the video camera (or in an early version of Final Cut Pro) could easily be constructed as symptomatic of a broader social or cultural demand for what the Dutch so poetically (hence untranslatably) call “onthaasting”: the conscious decision to lead a slower life of well-being.
In more recent times, art’s anxiety-ridden, traumatic relationship with the onslaught of time – always going forward, never going back; always going faster, never slowing down – has taken on a very different form, that of a “historiographic turn in art”: an obsession with the (recent) past and retrospective glance, excessive modulations of melancholy and nostalgia (the preferred tone of much ‘serious’ art produced in the last eight years or so), a compulsive desire for all that is anachronistic, archival and obsolete – all conspiring to produce that which Friedrich Nietzsche damningly called “the malady of history.” I have written elsewhere (and extensively so) about this chronomaniacal complex, focusing on one modality of the historiographic turn in contemporary art in particular – that of the archeological: artists collecting, digging, dusting off; revealing, uncovering, unveiling; excavating and lovingly inventorying the dumbstruck traces, shards and fragments of a distant, uncharted history (1). An important factor in motivating this widespread artistic interest in archeology, as one particular form of historiography, concerns the paradigmatic character of the archeological enterprise as an episteme, i.e. as a truth procedure and site of the production of knowledge: archeology is (by its very definition, namely that of the scientific study of history’s material sources) bound to a materialist view of culture, history and society, and it is always also a science of origins – “archè” being the ancient Greek word for “beginning” or “first principle”. Dig and ye shall find – and seeing as the earth, and the many mute materials that it hesitatingly hands over to the industrious digger, cannot lie, the process of excavation ultimately functions as a promise of revelation, of the unveiling of a hidden truth. And ahistorical truth, of course, is the stable rock of comfort and assurance we’re after in these hectic, disorienting times of the ceaseless acceleration and proliferation of data (connective, visual and otherwise), the silent, stone-faced permanence of the ruin or the excavation site offering refuge from the teeming culture of speed that permeates our daily lives to such dizzying, and ultimately petrifying effect.
The rock, the ruin and all that is solid and made of stone: here we seamlessly slip into the adjacent realm of geology, where time is measured on a scale that makes even the archeological seem jittery with continuous shifts and changes – where the building, completion and subsequent erosion of the pyramids is not very different, as a ‘historical’ process, from subatomic motion: geology, as the scientific study of the earth’s crust and physical properties, has revealed that our miniscule heavenly body is not that much younger, relatively speaking, than the universe as a whole (4,5 billion years as opposed to the cosmos’ estimated 13,5 billion years). Geology as the realm of stasis then, of what seems, to the untrained human eye, absolute motionlessness – the imperious eternal Same: no wonder that geology has been an (admittedly strange) source of philosophical comfort in its own right, and has made occasional allegorical inroads into the world of art, especially since the so-called “chronophobic” Sixties, when artists first started to tap into the rich reservoir of the geological (as well as astronomical, biological, botanical, ecological) imagination (2). Any consideration of the meeting of art and geology must of course pass by (or rather, depart from) Robert Smithson’s pioneering work in the Land or Earth Art movement, as well as his prolific activity as a critic and renegade art theorist. A lengthy quote from his widely-read essay “A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects” (1968) reminds us of Smithson’s keen awareness of art’s folding into an experience or philosophy of time that is aligned with the geological rather than the merely historical (or archeological): “The earth’s surface and the figments of the mind have a way of disintegrating into discrete regions of art. Various agents, both fictional and real, somehow trade places with each other – one cannot avoid muddy thinking when it comes to earth projects, or what I will call “abstract geology.” One’s mind and the earth are in a constant state of erosion, mental rivers wear away abstract banks, brain waves undermine cliffs of thought, ideas decompose into stones of unknowing, and conceptual crystallizations break apart into deposits of gritty reason. Vast moving faculties occur in this geological miasma, and they move in the most physical way. This movement seems motionless, yet it crushes the landscape of logic under glacial reveries. This slow flowage makes one conscious of the turbidity of thinking. Slump, debris slides, avalanches all take place within the cracking limits of the brain. The entire body is pulled into the cerebral sediment, where particles and fragments make themselves known as solid consciousness. A bleached and fractured world surrounds the artist. To organize this mess of corrosion into patterns, grids, and subdivisions is an aesthetic process that has hardly been touched (3).” Smithson is best known today, of course, for his giant, megalomaniacal ‘interventions’ in the American natural landscape, most notably his Spiral Jetty (which, despite its monumental size, appears to be notoriously hard to find). Amid today’s incessantly expanding body of Smithson literature, the exegesis of Spiral Jetty in particular bears many markings of hagiographic hero worship (Matta-Clark is another favorite), yet there has been relatively little discussion of the relationship between geology and art’s epochal claim of “timelessness” (an important factor in all sainthood and sacrality): wasn’t Spiral Jetty geological – and no longer archeological, as was the case in the work of, say, Michael Heizer – in both scale and temporal conception because this best expressed the artist’s desire to move beyond time, to stand outside time’s merciless constraints – to ensure the kind of permanence and timelessness more commonly associated with the earth than with man’s cultivation of it? In the aforementioned essay, Smithson advises the artist to become the proprietor of art’s perceived timelessness, of the artwork as that which is a product of “no time at all”: “the deeper an artist sinks into the time stream the more it becomes oblivion; because of this, he must remain close to the temporal surfaces. Many would like to forget time altogether, because it conceals the “death principle.” Floating in this temporal river are the remnants of art history, yet the “present” cannot support the cultures of Europe, or even the archaic or primitive civilizations; it must instead explore the pre- and post-historic mind; it must go into the places where remote futures meet remote pasts (4)” – into the spaces of geological time, such as lifeless deserts (in his exemplary case) untouched by man’s corrupting presence. For deserts, as the domains of death (or at least of a deep-seated hostility towards life), are zones “out of time” par excellence, their forbidding, morbid silence the wind-swept ‘proof’ of the alignment of geology with the a- or anti-historical – this timelessness the dream, precisely, of many a land art project.
As one may have gathered from these few sentences, I am no great lover of the desert, of which it is said somewhere, in Tuareg wisdom, that silence is its prayer – indeed, could the great nay-saying Monotheistic religions ever have emerged anywhere else? It is no coincidence that one of the worst touristic experiences of my life [details omitted] happened on the very edge of the Sahara, south of the Moroccan city of Zagora. That said, however, one of the finest artistic experiences of my life, in a strictly touristic sense, also involved a trip to desert – this one under the knowing guidance, it should be added, of the Los Angeles-based ‘artist’ collective Center for Land Use Interpretation, who organize bus trips into the Mojave desert, including such memorable highlights as a visit to the mining town of Boron (home to the largest borax mine in the world) and the ultra-atmospheric Mojave airplane boneyard along the California State Route 14. Perhaps this was such a memorable experience precisely because the Center for Land Use Interpretation, as a bunch of time bandits, pull off that which so many others like (and unlike) them do not (mainly because of the programmatic immodesty and ultimate humorlessness of the latter’s many attempts), and this clearly has something to do with the risky business of trying to marry art and science (geology in this case), art and information, art and pedagogy – and entertainingly, parodically so to boot. But the success of their venture (and relatively high profile in a contemporary art world that is justifiably averse to positivist, lab coat-clad posing) is ultimately also linked to the object of their loving, slightly mocking faux-geological scrutiny: the city of Los Angeles and its built-up surrounds, a city whose short history was chronicled by Mike Davis in a book that promised to “excavate the future of L.A.” Can a future be excavated at all? Can the geological clock be wound (fast) forward, and art dream about tomorrow for a change? Exactly because of Los Angeles’ perceived lack of (natural) history – another prominent chronicler of L.A. culture and lore, Norman Klein, dubbed it the capital of forgetting (5) – and both its relative youth as well as its cultural obsession with youth, its historiography must be conducted in a spirit of slight irreverence, and there is perhaps no better way to do so than by reconstructing this history as a geological field trip along a string of imaginary excavation sites (such as a mining town): the geological fixation of many art practices, after all, always serves to signal art’s unease – in this case endemic to Angeleno culture – with the ruthlessness of the passage of time. And much more to the point of the present (that is to say, Maarten Vanden Eynde’s) curatorial undertaking, CLUI’s geo-archeological field trips do not concern natural wonders (the conventional destinations of such specialized tourism), but rather those naturalized ‘wonders’ left behind, in the haste typical of the Gold Rush’ provisional living, by man: theirs is not a geology of the natural, but one of the cultural world, proving that the daily practice of history (i.e. archeology) is a “quintessential tool for denaturalizing the social” indeed (6). A geology, not so much of the earth, then, but of the patterns of scars laboriously carved into its surface, rendered legible as a document of man’s restless passing across even the world’s remotest expanses.
A geo-logy of the cultural world rather than the earth upon which it rests: a paradox this may seem perhaps, but isn’t ‘paradox’ the very logic of all art?
(1) See, among others, my “The Way of The Shovel: On the Archeological Imaginary in Contemporary Art,” published in e-flux journal #4, March 2009 (to which the subtitle of the present essay refers); “After the Historiographic Turn: Current Findings,” published in e-flux journal #5, May 2009; “Whose ‘End of History’?”, published in Yilmaz Dziewior (ed.), Jahresring 56:Wessen Geschichte? Whose History?, Berlin: Kulturstiftung des Bundes & Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2009 (forthcoming); and “Listen to the Stones: Mariana Castillo Deball Among the Ruins”, published in Mousse Magazine #21, September 2009. (2) The reference here is to Pamela M. Lee’s book-length study Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s. In it, Lee links 1960s art’s anxious examination of the issue of time (history, progress, speed) to the “emergence of the Information Age in postwar culture. The accompanying rapid technological transformations, including the advent of computers and automation processes, produced for many an acute sense of historical unknowing; the seemingly accelerated pace of life began to outstrip any attempts to make sense of the present. Lee sees the attitude of 1960s art to time as a historical prelude to our current fixation on time and speed within digital culture.” [From the MIT Press website, ed.] (3) Quoted in: Robert Smithson, Collected Writings, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1996, p. 100.(4) Ibid., p. 112.(5) Norman Klein, The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory, London & New York: Verso, 2008.(6) “History represents the quintessential tool for denaturalizing the social; as a result, it goes hand in hand with critique,” in: Luc Boltanski & Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, London & New York: Verso, 2003, p. 8.
Olafur Eliasson Green River, Stockholm, Sweden, 2000
Green River, Moss, Norway, 1998
‘One Friday at half past one there I was on the bridge with Emile and a bag full of red powder and people starting to stare at us. I hesitated for a moment then emptied the bag out over the parapet and the wind whipped up this enormous red cloud. I could literally feel people in cars slowing down, the cars went all quiet. And there was this cloud, floating over the river like a layer of gas. When it came in contact with the water, all of a sudden the river turned green, it was like a shock wave. There was a crowded bus ten metres a way and everybody was staring at the water. I told Emile we should maybe move on, as if everything was perfectly normal, then I carefully put the bag in a trashcan, as if colouring the centre of Stockholm was the kind of thing I did every day. I went down to IASPIS and when I came out again my heart started jumping up and down like mad: the whole length of the river was completely green and all these people had stopped to look at it. Next day it was all over the front page of the papers: “The river turned green”. The colorant was absolutely harmless and there was no pollution whatsoever’.
Abstract of a conversation between Hans Ulrich Obrist and Olafur Eliasson, 2002
Christo and Jeanne-Claude Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83
On May 7, 1983 the installation of Surrounded Islands was completed. In Biscayne Bay, between the city of Miami, North Miami, the Village of Miami Shores and Miami Beach, 11 of the islands situated in the area of Bakers Haulover Cut, Broad Causeway, 79th Street Causeway, Julia Tuttle Causeway, and Venetian Causeway were surrounded with 585,000 square meters (6.5 million square feet) of pink woven polypropylene fabric covering the surface of the water, floating and extending out 61 meters (200 feet) from each island into the Bay. The fabric was sewn into 79 patterns to follow the contours of the 11 islands.
For 2 weeks Surrounded Islands spreading over 11.3 kilometers (7 miles) was seen, approached and enjoyed by the public, from the causeways, the land, the water and the air. The luminous pink color of the shiny fabric was in harmony with the tropical vegetation of the uninhabited verdant island, the light of the Miami sky and the colors of the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay.
‘Nature has always been a subject of art, from the first cave paintings to twentieth-century landscape photography. I wanted to use the landscape as an artist in new ways. First I started making work outside using natural materials like grass and water, and this led to the idea of making a sculpture by walking. This was a straight line in a grass field, which was also my own path, going ‘nowhere’. I like the idea of making something from nothing. In the mid-sixties I began to think that the language and ambition of art was too formal and orthodox. I felt it had barely engaged with the natural landscapes which cover our planet, or used the experiences those places could offer. Starting from my home territory and gradually spreading further afield, my work has tried to explore this potential. I see it as abstract art laid down in the real spaces of the world. It is not romantic; I use the world as I find it’. – Richard Long –
Dusty Boots Line Sahara, 1988
Michael Heizer Double Negative, 1969-70
Double Negative is Michael Heizer’s first prominent earthwork. Double Negative consists of two trenches cut into the eastern edge of the Mormon Mesa, northwest of Overton, Nevada in 1969-70. The trenches line up across a large gap formed by the natural shape of the mesa edge. Including this open area across the gap, the trenches together measure 1,500 feet long, 50 feet deep, and 30 feet wide (457 meters long, 15.2 meters deep, 9.1 meters wide). 240,000 tons (218,000 tonnes) of rock, mostly rhyolite and sandstone, was displaced in the construction of the trenches.
Three thick sheets of cardboard of about 1m2 are filled with a variety of inorganic trash and debris. From a prophetic kind of future vision Panamarenko nostalgically tries to restore and reconstruct the long lost city-gardens. These city-gardens functioned as urban alternative for life on the countryside and provided additional food for the unfortunate. By the steady increase of city residents (in 2008 a remarkable event took place: the majority of the world population lives now in a city) the necessity to have physical contact with the earth and live from the land is gone. People are used to this new, self-created landscape and recognize the urban environment as their natural habitat.
Oil Peak was produced during the third Enough Room for Space (ERforS) project in Tbilisi, Georgia where the most severe protests since the Rose revolution were taking place. In 2003 the new Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili called back his fellow country men, who fled Georgia in the past decades, to come and help rebuild the once prosperous and wealthy country into a modern western democracy. ERforS decided to respond to this call as well and check out how a new democracy was being introduced or rather implanted and what the side-effects are of such an enormous political and sociological shift. Ten ‘oil eruptions’ were planted on several locations throughout the city. In front of the parliament it caused a surprising commotion as the protesting crowd appropriated the work as a ‘black rose’, symbolizing the failure of the Rose revolution.
Oil Peak, 2008
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. The concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, and the combined production rate of a field of related oil wells. According to Mathew Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy, “…peaking is one of these fuzzy events that you only know clearly when you see it through a rear view mirror, and by then an alternate resolution is generally too late.” Currently there is no consensus on whether Peak oil occurred already, or is still to come.
Gordon Matta-Clark (1943 – 1978) was an American artist best known for his site-specific artworks he made in the 1970s. He is famous for his “building cuts,” a series of works in abandoned buildings in which he variously removed sections of floors, ceilings, and walls. Over a period of about three months in 1974, he made two parallel vertical cuts straight through the middle of a nondescript two-story suburban house in Englewood, New Jersey, removing the material left between the cuts as well as some of the foundation blocks on which the house stood so that one half slightly tilted away from the other, creating a wedge-shaped aperture between them.
Doris Salcedo Shibboleth, 2007
As the very first representative of a non-European tradition to be commissioned by the Tate Modern Unilever Series, Doris Salcedo has chosen an understated technique: that of inscribing into the ground of the Turbine Hall. The scar that begins like a thin, almost invisible line, at the main entrance gradually becomes a chasm in the earth at the far end of the former power station. This earthquake-like insertion evokes the brokenness and separateness of the post-colonial cultures of a non-white, non-European legacy. The installation is a metonymy for the term absence – an absence that negates the space of post-colonial peoples. The construction of a ‘negative space’, or emptied out space, corresponds to the trajectory of the history of post-colonialism. It is in Shibboleth (2007), where space is occupied silently and discreetly, not via a sense of domination or empowerment, that this trajectory can be traced.
An ‘imaginative landscape’ is at work in the heart of what Salcedo states is a monument to a European and modernist tradition of Western art; the Tate Modern. Shibboleth disrupts the Western view of landscape that creates a sense of things being in place and emphasises ‘a visual scape in which the observer stands back and distances himself or herself from the thing observed.’ In reversing the role of the viewer as not only witness but accomplice in an act of silence, Shibboleth proposes a different take on the role of Western art practice and traditions of art: here the earth opens up under the viewers’ feet, evoking an earthquake, an eruption of space, time and place. The view is negated by its downward spiralling motion, bringing to mind a story in Borges’ Labyrinths; negativity has become one with the ground, forcing a glance into an abyss that is disquieting in its silence.
– Abstract from a text by Stella Baraklianou, 2008
Maarten Vanden Eynde Restauration du Lac de Montbel, 2003
Francis Alys (in collaboration with Rafael Ortega and Cuauhtémoc Medina)
When faith moves mountains, 2002
On April 11th 2002, 500 voluntiers were called in order to form a line to move a sand dune situated in the surroundings of the city of Lima. This human comb progressed pushing forward a certain quantity of sand with shovels in order to move the dune from its original position. The actual displacement was of an infinitesimal proportion, but not its metaphorical resonance.
New land is being created to extend the port of Rotterdam in The Netherlands. After an international call for tenders the contracting consortium PUMA (Project Uitbreiding Maasvlakte) was contracted to build the first sites. PUMA is a consortium consisting of Koninklijke Boskalis Westminster NV and Van Oord NV, notoriously known for The Palm Islands and The World in Dubia, and will deliver the first sites for the first customers in 2013.
The vital statistics of Maasvlakte 2 provide a picture of the scale of the project. The site will cover a total area of around 2,000 hectares, half of which will be for industrial sites. Division between the main areas of activities includes 630 hectares for container storage and throughput (with a total container handling capacity of 17 million teu annually), 190 hectares for the chemicals industries and 180 hectares for distribution. The infrastructure includes 13 km of roads, 14 km of rail lines and 13 km of quay walls. The construction of the ‘new land’ will require a total of 365m m³ of sand over the whole project period (up to 2033), 240m m³ of which will be for the first phase of construction due to be completed in 2013. There will be 10.8 km of sea defences and the access channel for shipping will be 10 nautical miles long with a depth of up to 20m, a 600m wide port entrance and 700m wide turning basin. The sky is the limit…