Where NDSM-square Amsterdam
When Thursday 6 September, opening 17.30
Iron deserves an ode. And not only in the Iron Age or the era of industrialization. Iron is everywhere, then and now. In us and around us. Many heavy industry can not do without iron ore, the destruction and recycling of metal, forging, casting, welding. Joep van Lieshout reveals with Ferrotopia the iron foundation of human progress, which has taken place in the past millennia. Where the heavy work was the starting point for his visual additions in the early months of Ferrotopia, guest curator Angelique Spaninks of Eindhoven's MU in the second Ferrotopia phase chooses the work of designers who, on a small scale, remove the iron elements from the air and the ground. fetching, distilling from our body or draping a second skin around us.
Take design studio Atelier NL by Lonny van Ryswyck and Nadine Sterk, who is known for thorough research based projects of clay, sand and glass. In the many soil samples that they have been taking and collecting for ten years, the iron oxide Fe2o3 is often a determining element. The more iron, the dark the color of both ceramics and glass. Reddish brown becomes the earthenware, deep dark green becomes the glass in which there is a relatively large amount of Fe2o3. For Ferrotopia they plow out their entire materials and objects library in order to make a sequence from the least ferrous to the most ferrous material or object. In addition, Atelier NL shows a series of 'Salt Vases', made from saline clay. By adding various natural salt types during the firing process the iron elements from the salt oxidize rusty brown in the clay. Under the influence of moisture and climate the vases start to perspire and crackle, causing them to decay slowly. It is precisely in an open, rugged setting such as Ferrotopia that these vases come to life, fragile and readable in their elementary structure, as not many of the products we surround ourselves with are still legible.
We find a similar fragility in the work of Xandra van der Eijk, two of whom can also be seen. With 'Contain, Corrode' she zooms in on the water network that is usually hidden from our view and has been one of the most basic human infrastructures for centuries. Underground the power struggle between man and his environment takes place, in an ecosystem consisting of iron and water, the microbiological life that sets in motion a whole series of chemical processes. This way the iron waterworks are slowly digested from the inside, the heavy cast iron pipes transform into iron ore again. In response, people do everything to replace the old decayed structures with new materials, after which the whole process takes place again. In the foreseeable future, the old iron water pipes will become a thing of the past, until artefacts are destroyed. 'Contain, Corrode' is such an artifact, an old cast-iron water pipe in decay, an object in which human ingenuity, material transformation, the all-consuming time and the bacterial life come together.
Even more fine is the star dust that Xandra picks up with Kristie van Noort. In their design research project ‘As Above, So Below’ they collect micrometeorites, the magnetic rain of tiny metal particles that descend on Earth from the universe. Those who are good at looking for them can find them, but it is not easy. You must scrape buckets full of spruce from roofs to find a few microscopically small nuggets. Yet there is an estimated 37,000 to 78,000 tons of star dust on Earth every year. Where large meteorites usually burn in the atmosphere, the small alien dust particles survive the atmospheric heat. And while our earthly resources are becoming exhausted, rare earths are indispensable for our current way of life and our survival as a species, so we have to look for alternatives. Micrometeorites are sought by scientists on a small scale as a source of information about the history of the universe and the composition of the stars. With ‘As Above, So Below’, Xandra and Kirstie consider these micrometeorites for the first time as a material, an alien rare earth metal that they collect as futuristic urban miners.
Designer Bart Hess graduated years ago at the Design Academy Eindhoven with a beard of screws. Since then, his versatile practice has been about creating spectacular-looking fabrics and extravagant skins. Often made of simple everyday materials, they also look as new organic materials on the films made by Bart himself. ‘Metal Fur’ is such a skin, a fur of needles, cuddly and stimulating at the same time, which can serve as an unapproachable harness but also makes every small movement of the body underneath wavy visible. The English expression ‘Pins and Needles’ describes the stimulating feeling you can have when a limb sleeps. For Bart Hess it was the perfect title for a project in which he tells a punky pointed, sharp yet magical organic story with pins, magnets, iron fittings and needles. He created a pair of shoes, a cape, a hoodie of metal and let his model perform in a black setting. Iron and metal are, according to Hess, the most distant from human skin, but that makes the challenge even greater. And the shine of metal, leave it, says Bart. He is not the only one who gets enchanted by it.
The Norwegian Cecilia Jonsson has a fascination with iron at the molecular level. She looks for it in living material from grass to blood. It recognizes the importance of iron for life on earth and the fact that iron is one of the least toxic metals. Yet abandoned metal mines are a source of poisoning the landscape and disruption of ecosystems. Some plants, however, grow well on such contaminated soil precisely because they absorb the iron and store it in their roots, stems and leaves. In fact, they clean the soil in a natural way, but then people have to cooperate by harvesting the plants on time. The wild grass species Imperata cylindrica is such an iron absorbent plant. Cecilia Jonsson harvested 24 kilos of this heavy metal contaminated grass on the deserted banks of a Spanish mine and won 2 grams of iron ore from the roots. Enough to forge 'The Iron Ring'. Herewith she outlines a scenario for iron extraction that can contribute to the rehabilitation of abandoned metal mines instead of further destruction of the landscape. In Ferrotopia we show the film that she made of the process.
Even more refined is the iron that flows through our veins and allows us to breathe. Yet it is the same element that makes our weapons, shields and tools. For her project Haem, with which she won the Bio Art & Design Award in 2016, Cecilia extracted iron from a very unexpected source: the human placenta. Consisting of a complex labyrinth of bloodstreams, the placenta is the temporary organ that forms a direct connection between a mother and her growing child. Iron plays an essential role during pregnancy; it carries oxygen from the mother to the fetus through the placenta. To symbolize this process Cecilia made out of the hemoglobin she won from 69 placentas that were made available to her by young parents an iron compass needle. This needle symbolizes the effort of dozens of births, thousands of hours of fluid exchange between new and existing life. By bridging the gap between art, life sciences and metallurgy, Haem unconventionally demonstrates the fundamental connection between the elements of the earth and the human body.