Rotating gear, Arduino, motors, projector, video-camera, polarizing filters, led light, plastic waste
2020 and 2021
“Polarized view” is part of a series of instruments that use plastic waste as a raw material to create visual compositions.
Through the automatic rotation of a polarizing filter, a camera and a projector, the internal tension of the plastic are revealed and amplified through a physical phenomenon called “Photoelasticity”.
The plastic composition that will be shown and “filtered” by the mechanism, exhibits a collection of recycled material recovered from different places in Groningen during some “trash walks” in the street.
A fragment of my thesis-diary
27 February 2020
I must admit, it took me a while before I found the right words to write about what happened. But almost two weeks after it happened, here I am.
At the end of January, after several months of appointments, presentations and negotiations, I finally managed to carve out an opportunity to show my installation “Polarized View” to the residents of the Selwerd District, in Groningen. During the Wijkfest, the neighbourhood party, I was proposed to use an apartment in a building that was going to be demolished. During the months of January and February I had therefore organized some walks with the local people to collect garbage in the neighbourhood; a material that would be shown, through a performative action, during the event. I had been given the keys to the apartment intended to host the work and Elisabetta, the girl who would accompany the action with a violin, and I, were about to do the second rehearsal on site. The purpose of the installation was to focus people’s attention on the huge amount of waste collected in just two hours of walking around the neighbourhood. Every single plastic waste had been patiently mapped, collected, sorted, washed and disinfected. Garbage is something we produce constantly and once it is thrown away, it stops affecting us. It disappears from our sight and we don’t think about it anymore. But the reality is that the garbage that ends up in the environment, especially if it is plastic, stays in the environment, causing irreparable damage to the ecosystem. With the action of the collection of waste dispersed in the environment, I wanted to bring back to the surface what, only temporarily, had ended up on the bottom of our land. But let’s get to the point: The installation, which was the last of a previous version, made in the year and a half I had spent so far in my Master’s program, was a complex machine made of rotating elements, gears and projections. It allowed me to magnify the unpleasant presence of the plastic waste and to transform it through polarizing filters, in a hypnotizing play of lights and colours. It was a method I had invented to focus attention, with beauty and enchantment, on something that no one would want to see again. And yet, in the end, there was no enchantment… I felt like I was reliving a nightmare I’d been trying to bury in my memories… Another eviction, another loss of things… But this time, what I was losing wasn’t just useless objects or clothes… I was losing what all my artistic research meant to me at that moment.
Ironically, while I was picking up what people were losing or dropping off in the street, in the apartment where everything was ready for the party, someone was destroying and throwing away a year and a half of my work. On Friday, when I was ready to work on the final details of the installation, opening the door of the apartment that was meant to host it, I found myself looking at a completely empty room. In addition to my installation, also my audio interface, my interactive glove, lights and all the audio tools I had finally managed to purchase were gone. I hurried to call the organizers to ask for explanations and I realized, with that call, that I was not the only one who had received the keys to that room. I found out that the SDG company had removed my work. I didn’t know the worst part of the story was yet to come. After I dial the number of this company, a man answers me: I ask him to tell me what has been done with my installation and the only answer I get is “It’s gone”. So I ask him to give me the direction to the dump but, even this, is followed by a categorical refusal to help. I despair and start asking everyone for the address of the landfill in Groningen. After two surreal hours spent alone in the street, I was told about, I finally find out where the SDG brings the removed material, mostly from evicted buildings. In the end, I found my audio interface and some cables in the mud of the landfill. Of the rest of the installation, there was no trace left… In front of me, a mountain of scrap and broken bicycles. I wanted to climb it, sifting through each of those rusty pieces of junk, hoping to find what had been taken away from me. But it was too painful, and in the end, I gave up. I will carry that image with me for a long time. Right when I was working with the concept of reuse and recycling, unintentionally, I stumbled upon something bigger than myself. Contradicting itself, the Cleaning company, in its web page, declares itself “environmentally friendly” hiding behind the comfortable and committed facade of “reuse and recycling” while in the real world it throws away new instruments as if they were garbage. Also, thanks to this experience, I understood that one has to be careful to use the word “recycling”. Recycling is a beautiful concept that makes us feel committed; but if used badly it does more damage than good. And so, while I was deprived of the only physical object I had to “transform garbage into enchantment”, now the presence of what is lost becomes even greater. Beauty is still part of what I do, only now it is less “physical”. The gathering walks and the stories… beautiful or sad, well, nobody can take those away from me.
The photos below show an artistic intervention I made together with curator and performer Elisabetta Cuccaro, using the remains of the installation left in the room of the building in Berkelaan. The duration of the sound intervention remained the same. The absence of the installation, loaded with the whole story, was present again for a moment.