Beautiful, Dangerous, Radioactive Art

radioactive vases

A collection of radioactive ceramic vases is about to go on display in London’s venerable Victoria & Albert Museum. They’re beautiful but deadly as a result of the toxic sludge used to sculpt them, as revealed by Fast Company:

Ceramic vases made from toxic mud created in the production of must-have products such as laptops and smartphones will present a markedly different perspective on consumer technology when they go on show at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum later this month.

radioactive vases

3 finished vases, conceived by Unknown Fields Division and produced with Kevin Callaghan, a ceramics artist, will be on display in the V and A Gallery.Photo: Toby Smith, courtesy of Unknown Fields

 

The mud was collected from a toxic lake in Inner Mongolia into which thick, black chemical waste is pumped from neighboring refineries in and around Baotou, the region’s largest industrial city (read more about the place described as “hell on Earth” in this BBC story).

China produces an estimated 95% of the world’s supply of “rare earth” elements.

Baotou is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of the materials–elements found in anything from magnets and wind turbines and electric car motors to the electronic guts of smart phones and flat screen TVs.

The ceramics were produced by The Unknown Fields Division, a self-declared “nomadic design studio” headed by Liam Young and Kate Davies and developed within the Architectural Association in London, whose aim is to reflect the shadows luxury products cast across the planet.

“The vases are a way to talk about ideas around luxury and desire. How both are culturally constructed collective sets of values that are fleeting and particular to our time,” says Davies.

“These three ‘rare earthenware’ vessels are the physical embodiment of a contemporary global supply network that displaces earth and weaves matter across the planet.”

Adds Young: “The dominant media narrative about our technologies is based on lightness and thinness. Terms like ‘cloud’ of ‘Macbook Air’ imply that our gadgets are just ephemeral objects–and this is the story we all want to believe.

“In reality, our technologies should really be thought of as geological artefacts that are carved out of the earth and produced by a planetary-scaled factory.”

Unknown Fields travels the world to explore landscapes and infrastructures critical to the production of contemporary cities and the technologies they contain–often forgotten landscapes scarred by consumer demand…

[continues at Fast Company]

majestic

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