|All that is solid melts into air|
|All that is solid melts into air, film, 17'20" / 57'02", 2012 - 2013|
|The video All That Is Solid Melts Into Air revisits the mining site at Rosia Montana, in Northwestern Romania, rich in gold and rare metals. A Canadian corporation advertises its plans for cyanide-aided extraction via a pompously optimistic public relations campaign, contrasting direly with the footage this film builds upon. Rosia Montana, where mining began in pre-Roman times and that was the site of relentless exploitation after the '70s, looks frighteningly close to the stock image of a post-cataclysmic planet, where all signs of dwelling have been submerged in reddish waste water.
While the decision-making process around this mining project indicates the subordination of legality to corporate interests, the few remaining locals are forced into an upward migration, relocating each year further up the mountain to survive the rising residual waters. They are faced with the prospect of definitive dislocation when the plan, with its "community assistance" rhetorical ornaments, is carried out. The artists' research at Rosia Montana revealed a situation where nothing is solid and nothing is imaginable, where projects for redeeming environmental and existential damage liquefy at the same speed as the shapes of the mountain's former landscape.
The slow-motion 'apocalypse' triggered by injecting chemical cocktails into the ground echoes in the two elements that form the soundtrack to the film. Fragments of political speeches by Salvador Allende and Thomas Sankara punctuate a complete reading of the Revelations of St John, the Bible's final chapter. The text of the Apocalypse enters a peculiar relation to the obliterated landscape: word and picture oscillate in relation to each other, and exchange the functions of figure and ground. The two 'scripts' for renewal in the soundtrack, either through destruction or revolutionary transformation, write a history of the idea of future: from a future which ends with the apparition of a wrathful god, to a future that – after the 20th century – humanity can unleash against itself.
In Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor's All That Is Solid Melts int Air (2012 - 2013), the artists follow cyanide-aided mining operations at Rosia Montana in Northwestern Romania, know for its gold and rare metal deposits. While categorized as a pre-Roman mine area, the territory has been ceaselessly exploited since the 1970s, more recently through the involvement of a Canadian corporation that is also carrying out large-scale extraction projects in Halkidiki, Greece. In a damaged body politic, communities are periodically displaced on a large-scale due to destruction of water resources as well as surrounding land. As Vatamanu and Tudor carry out eerie surface and aerial scanning of the landscape, which appears as if it belongs to a planet devoid of life, the sensation of an apocalyptic time is heightened through a reading of the Book of Revelation, the Bible's final chapter, with fragments of political speeches by Salvador Allende and Thomas Sankara. The spheres of death, debt, and hydrocarbon dependence create contrapuntal currents in the narative of Rosia Montana as a theater of struggle.
excerpt from Oil for Aladdin's Lamp, Art in The Age Of... a project presented at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam (2015-2016)
The versets of The Book of Revelation become subtitles for the images of spilled residues from the contemporary mining projects at Rosia Montana, Valea Sesii, and Geamana. The images are framed by two visualized discourses, the UN speech of Salvador Allende from 1972, and Thomas Sankara's speech at the Pan-African Summit from Addis Adeba in 1987, historical moments before the assassination of both leaders.
The gold exploitation at Rosia Montana, the contemporary-relevant cause of the longest resistance against neoliberal capitalism in postcommunist Romania, is thus situated with ease in the non-European context of the policies of extractivist capitalism, its militarist and neocolonial character included. One can recall thus that the "only alternative" proclaimed after 1989, the neoliberal economical policies based on the foundation of the "free market", have been initiated in Latin America in the context of a right-wing dictatorship imposed after a military coup, continued then to unfold in Africa, in the context of increased financial dependency and violent repression of the movements for anticolonial liberation, and were then introduced after 1989 in Eastern Europe, in the context of incipient democracies and paradigm change.
However, the montage proposes more than a pedagogical effect, offering a series of contradictory and uncomfortable totalities, at the level of intuition, senses and thought alike: the images of residual poison are seductive and easy to the eye; the explanatory value of panoramas is refused in favor of the perpetual ambiguity of close-ups; the postmodern ambiguity and refusal of "full meaning" is abandoned in favor of strongly charged commentary; the very clear sense of recent history is disclosed in the name of a resistive but unclarified other sense; the meaning of certain spiritual learnings is put together with the critical sense of secularity; and, not least, the future of "space conquest" seems to have happened sometime in the past, on Earth. If the Apocalypse is the greatest narrative of the still-lasting Western sunset, and "the only alternative" is the greatest narrative of our recent history, could this be the sign of a cynical era, paradoxically fine with the idea of domination, of a new fascist "Golden Dawn", or of a decolonial aesthesis, which perceives irreversibility and domination from a concrete exteriority, maybe from the open horizon of a reality reclaiming, tentatively, its dynamic character?
excerpt from IDEA Arts + Society #43, gallery insert, published in 2013
|All that is solid melts into air, installation view Extra City Kunsthall, Antwerp, 2013|