Marco Barotti – Clamps

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 maybe; no, plastic. They have the irregular shape of a seashell. They move like clamps, 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 clamps. But why are they on a grass field and not in the water? And clamps 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 clamps are a project by Italian artist Marco Barotti, developed during his residency 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 Clamps’s 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 Clamps 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 clamps 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 the 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 clamps 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 shellfish. 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, noble proprietary on sturdiness and 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. CLAMS from Marco Barotti on Vimeo.

Pulse Fishing and Maze de Boer

A long and controversial debate has been at the center of the European Union discussion in the last years. After years of critics, environmental and political skirmishes pulse fishing has been completely banned in the European seas. It is maybe handy to summarize the history of this fishing technique. The bad reputation of pulse fishing has old roots. The technique was banned in 1998 when the European Union stipulated the regulation to protect and preserve fishery resources. The regulamentation also provided for an exception that would allow EU countries to experiment with “innovative fishing methods” up to 5% of the annual fishing quota in the North Sea. The Dutch, who had long been routing in favor of this method, accounted for pulse fishing as one of these innovative methods and started to use pulse fishing in the North Sea. The Netherlands has been champion of this fishing technique, so much so that it became the country with the greatest concentration of concessions in the EU. Intuitively it is easy to condemn this technique and to interpret its effects as irreversibly destructive towards the aquatic environment. This might be considered one of the main factors contributing to the ongoing debate. Serious scientific research on the effects of these fishing techniques are, as a matter of fact, still in the making and will not be available until the end of this year. The question might be wrong. The real question is why we continue to intensively exploit our subaquatic resources? On the other hand, if we seek the lesser of two evils, the answer could indie be pulse fishing. So it reads an article shared on the Stitching Noordzee platform:“[if it ]will be banned completely, so that even further research will no longer be possible. That would be a dreadful waste…”. Stitching Noordzee is the organization entitled with the protection of the health and prosperity of the North Sea The bad omen came true. When approaching the northern shores of the country hundreds of disused fishnets can be found laying around on the beach. Multidisciplinary visual artist Maze de Boer (1976, Amsterdam), who has been creating large-scale site-specific and site-responsive installations was inspired by that sight. De Boer participated at this year Oerol festival with a theatrical installation made out of the abandoned pulse fishing nets. From a high vantage point, you could see boats lying on dry land in the middle of the dunes. Only after a closer inspection, you would be able to recognize the materials utilized. the boats are constructed with disused pulse fishing nets, which refers to the wasteful and mindless misuse that we are making of our subaquatic resources. Attempt to recycle and upcycle. Maze de Boer installation refers symbolically to several other water-related issues. In the first instance, desertification, the boats are stranded among the dunes, there where no boat should be. The second point that de Boer’s work highlights is the rising sea level: the boats, an aquatic symbol, placed in the middle of the dunes, can signify how the dunes themselves (dry land in general) will soon be devoured by the rising sea levels and will become a suitable place for boats and other aquatic elements. Finally, the installation plays with the horizon of expectation of the spectator, on the category of appearing and being. From a distance the viewer could spot a shape look-alike of a boat, only getting closer the real nature of the objects to become discernable. Maze de Boer work captures the viewer and transports him along a journey of research and understanding, that is highlighted as the only way to get to real knowledge. It is to be hoped that the effort to seek innovative and less invasive methods for fishing in the North Sea will continue.  

The many forms of subaquatic pollution and Robertina Sebjanič

Water problems we are all aware of what an urgent topic it is. In a perfect and ecologically conscious world, this statement would certainly be true. Even the many ecologically conscious people who are striving to daily better their lifestyle often have a blurred and vague idea about the extent of the water issue. Here on the Transnatural blog, we want to explore together the many facets of the threatens that our water (re)sources are facing in our contemporary world. How can we save our water resources, preserve them and purify them? In the Age of Post Drought exhibition looks at three main issues: water scarcity, water pollution, and desertification. Our artist’s work research in-depth the issue and tackles topics that are often left behind or even totally ignored. Water scarcity and desertification have historically gotten the biggest share of media attention. Do we know all how we are irrevocably compromising our aquatic future on this planet? Who talks, for example, about microplastic water pollution? what were the elements involved in the recent banning of the pulse fishing technique, what are the alternatives and what is the aftermath material waste? We want to start today by introducing a new threat that is bound to change the fauna behavior of our rivers, lakes, and seas. Robertina Sebjanic, artist who works in the cross-field art-science-technology, has been conducting a years-long study and art practice dedicated to water sound pollution. The effects of this pollution form are as urgent as neglected by mainstream media coverage and scientific research. Have you ever imagined how the subaqueous world sounds like? Artist Robertina Sebjanic did not limit herself to the imagination and decided to record sounds from the seas and oceans that she visited, armed with a homemade hydrophone. The experience resulted in an ongoing artistic and scientific research which is documented by the multiple vinyl album Aquatocene – Subaquatic quest for serenity. Human and technological interference into the subaquatic realm, caused by ships, sonars and sound cannons (a tool used during oil extraction explorations) have destructive effects on the marine habitats and it is known to be connected to phenomena such as the beaching of whales and the so-called Lombard effect, which brings certain species to become louder themselves in order to overcome the increased background noise. The goal of the project is to record, archive and perform the anthropocentric under water nuisance. During the AV performances conducted by the artist herself (sometimes in collaboration with other sound or light artists) comes alive and becomes an interactive ambiental immersive environment.   Robertina Sebjanic is currently exposing her ongoing project Aquatocene in our exhibition space and will conduct a related workshop during the upcoming festival Into the Great Wide Open. To read more about the history of her practice we refer you to this insightful interview posted on the blog We make art not money.