___Imaging to be walking uphill amongst a grass field, it is a quiet and sunny day of midsummer. Wasn’t supposed to be here some art? You look up and see nothing, you look at your feet, something is there. Transparent shells are scattered randomly across the field. Our mind start the engine of meaning-making, we have to know: what is the meaning? We start our inspection: What are they made of? Glass may be; no, plastic. They have the irregular shape of a seashell. They move like clams, they rhythmically open and close their artificial valves. At this point we know what is going on, these peculiar artificial animals are mock-ups of clams. But why are they on a grass field and not in the water? And clams are silent, aren’t they? And these trembles and rattle in unison with an obscure orchestral noise that comes from within. Where does the sound come from? What is the meaning?

Here our investigative mind reaches the limit of reasonable deduction, the rest would be pure guessing.  We need to read an always helpfull explicative capture on our leaflets to understand the source of the sound.

There we finally get to the root of the mistery. The clams are a project by Italian artist Marco Barotti, developed during the ‘In the Age of Post-Drought’ program at Trasnatural. The artificial seashells are made from recycled plastic and are provided with speakers and sensors. The sensor reacts to the water quality and translates it into movement and sound.

Barotti’s Clams make for us visible and tangible a quality of the water that normally eludes our senses. We cannot touch, see, hear and most of the times not even taste the micro-polluting agents that menace our water sources. Letting emerge in a sensorial manner what normally eludes particular sphere of our perceptive capacities is a theme already explored by Barotti in previous works.

The core concept behind Clams is the idea of synesthesia. Synesthesia is a word that comes originally from literature and describes a rhetorical figure that involves the combination of two words belonging to two different sensory planes. If we translate in words what the Barotti’s clams do, we can immediately see the synesthesia in it: the water pollution is an orchestral sound and a gentle rattle.

Many times has been said that western society abies to a strictly visual paradigm. We are, indeed, the society of the eye. This is to say that both physiologically and culturally sight is the strongest of all the senses. It is so much easier to grasp and acknowledge the existence of a phenomenon when we can see it. Barotti’s clams make us the service to make visible a capital problem of the modern world: the contamination of our freshwater resources. More specifically, the contamination created by microplastic. Plastic has infiltrated the water cycle in the form of fragments less than a few millimeters in length. Scientific research and public opinion have given a great deal of attention to the problem in recent years but the use and waste of plastic continue without slowing down. Microplastic can nowadays be found everywhere from oceans to waterways to the mountain peaks.

To raise awareness on the plastic pollution problem Barotti has chosen to use precisely this incriminating material to give a shell to his shellfishes. The plastic used by Barotti is recycled and comes in thin sheets that can be shaped and cut into the desired shape through heat. A material that was born as the indestructible material par excellence, easy to manage and mold, plastic was soon destined to the realm of disposable objects creating a waste of resources never seen before. As declared by the documentary Plastic Planet, after the Bronze and Iron Age, here we are living in the Plastic Age.

 

 

Written by Stephanie Busuito