Imagine a cave – where meter-long stalactites hang from moist cave ceilings, growing for thousands of years created by minerals – drip by drip. Imagine the same cave except one that is bright and open to the air and if these stalactites were created by human activity and consumer demand.
Human Made Stalactites a crowdsourced artwork, which premiered at and is now in the collection of Aalborg University hanging in their main rotunda. These stalactites are made of plastic, metal and bits of tape that each student and professor collected from the streets of Copenhagen and refuse bins. They found electronics, wire, bouncy balls, metal bits from cars, ductworks, and these were interspersed with natural plants placed in custom grow bags made with recycled PET plastic bottles.
With human activity dumping in oceans and on land, the layers of human environmental effects are visible in this work. The tens of thousands of years of anthropogenic activity and stalactites: “to-drip”, and meaning “that which drips”, is also a type of information that hangs from the ceiling (revealing our want, dreams and desires). The recent trajectory of robotically empowered production and human mass consumption adds to this constant dripping accretion.
In nature, stalactites may be composed of amirite, lava, minerals, peat, pitch, sand, etc. Now we see new ones, composed of electronics, plastics, leachate from dumps and layers of plastics eaten by birds and fed to their young.
Plastics are dripping and penetrating the collective body of animal, plant, human and earth as they have now entered our food supply with fish. The plasticizers from plastics are estrogenic chemicals and proven to impact cancer rates in humans and the sex of fish in oceans. All fish and frogs are becoming a bit more “feminine”.
Before we realize what has happened a new species arises; reorganizing our cultures, our communications, and posing new questions about what is driving technological evolution. Who gets to ask those questions? Who gets to introduce these chemicals to our environment and why should they be allowed?
Should artists have access to the expressive tools of our industrial society?
Anthropogenic Stalactites are structures left behind by current industrial waste aggregates that are collecting themselves. By presenting them in this space we are reminded daily of human impact on the natural living systems that surround us as we accidentally and mutagenically create a new species.
Part of this project is to also photograph each participant holding the waste they have collected, to realize both our individual complicities in making the waste, and our power to remove the waste and take charge of where and how it is treated.
Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin’s book Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies brilliantly captures writings and art surrounding humans deleterious impact on environment.
Aalborg University, 2017 Invited by Morten Sondergard.