Beyond the visible – Receptacles

Since the 19th century, we have known that the production of industrial goods usually produces toxic waste. Over time, industrial waste increases worldwide because in most cases it takes centuries or millennia to become harmless. If you mark the poisoned areas on a map, you realise that the poisoned environment covers a huge area worldwide. In Italy, a study has been carried out on pollution, combining the data of researchers, biologists and chemists with those of doctors and health insurers, and examining the effects on health. There are many cities and rural areas where survival is threatened because water, soil or air are polluted. Not only is big industry mainly responsible for this situation, toxic waste is actually good business. Taking household waste to a landfill and storing it costs about €10 per tonne, while storing toxic waste costs about €300 per tonne. When you consider that every waste transport has to be checked to make sure that no one has simply switched the transport papers and toxic waste is stuck as household waste, it quickly becomes clear that such a scam is easy to pull off. One example: the total revenues of the ‘Ndrangheta, a criminal organisation from Calabria that operates nationwide in the illegal trade of toxic waste, exceed those of the largest companies – and they are not the only ones: White Collars, corrupt politicians, banks – a whole network of “collaborators” ensures that the waste “disappears” in nearby or, even better, distant countries. Often these countries are former ex-colonies of those who produce the most rubbish.

Also. What about the “Agent Orange” used by US forces in Vietnam, or Assad’s chemical weapons “neutralised” in the Mediterranean? The relics of the past are still present. The Cold War fuelled the nuclear arms race: America conducted 1,039 nuclear tests by 2012 (!) to test the effectiveness of its weapons. The Soviet Union detonated 718 bombs, France 196, and hardly any of the tests took place underground. Islands, real paradises, were evacuated and used as test grounds for nuclear weapons. These places are no longer habitable. But what happens when people exclude themselves because the soil and water are too contaminated to live there? Researchers found that places like Chernobyl have become refuges for animals and plants. This contradicts the widespread idea that the extinction of humanity corresponds to the end of all life. Is Eden really only conceivable without humans?

The installation consists of a number of ceramic sculpture containers. Each piece has a unique shape and colour, inspired by the morphology and history of the places it describes – polluted, poisoned lands that nevertheless retain their incredible beauty in most cases. Some ceramics are reminiscent of a decorative object, but whose colour seems a little too charged to be pleasing. Other sculptures resemble creatures that could have stepped out of a bizarre splatter film. The choice to emulate a pop or even kitsch object expresses the widespread trivialisation of a huge problem such as human alteration of the environment, a phenomenon not only linked to lack of information, criminal organisations and governments, but the basis of an unsustainable and farsighted economic system. The power of this economy lies in the seduction of the consumer through a constant and extreme simplification of complex contents and desires.

The “strangeness” and complexity of the shapes of the containers invite us to observe longer, to discover, to fathom the mystery. The containers are empty inside. In my work, the emptiness stands for the fear of the unknown, the intangible danger. Poisons are often invisible and the effect on people usually only occurs after a long time, which is why the connection to the source of the problem is lost. The sculptures are arranged on the floor in space, with geographical logic based on the territories they represent. In their entirety, as smaller and larger pieces, they resemble a strange colourful landscape.