Rare Earthenware, 2014
Rare Earthenware, 2014
Rare Earth metals are the fundamental materials that enable the ‘featherweight’, ‘slim’ and ‘seamless’ aesthetics of our contemporary technologies. As our personal electronics tend towards the invisible, they conjure in their shadows an undeniably visible grey mountain, a 1km deep pit, and a 10km radioactive tailings lake. Unknown Fields have used the toxic mud from such a tailings lake in Baotou, Inner Mongolia to craft a set of three ceramic vessels. Each vase is sized in relation to the amount of waste created in the production of three items of technology – a smartphone, a featherweight laptop and the cell of a smart car battery.
These three “rare earthenware” vessels are the physical embodiment of a contemporary global supply network that displaces earth and weaves matter across the planet. They are presented as objects of desire, but their elevated radiation levels and toxicity make them objects we would not want to possess. They represent the undesirable consequences of our material desires.
An accompanying film developed in collaboration with photographer Toby Smith charts the unmaking of these objects of technology - reversing their journeys from container ships and ports, through wholesalers and factory floors, all the way back to the banks of the barely-liquid radioactive lake in Inner Mongolia.
Unknown Fields (UK/AU)
Unknown Fieldsis a nomadic design research studio directed by Kate Davies and Liam Young. They venture out on expeditions into the shadows cast by the contemporary city, to uncover the industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness its technology and culture set in motion. These distant landscapes ‐ the iconic and the ignored, the excavated, irradiated and the pristine, are embedded in global systems that connect them in surprising and complicated ways to our everyday lives. Unknown Fields make provocative objects and films from this expedition work, exploring the dispersed narratives that coalesce to form a contemporary city. They chronicle their expeditions in a book series titled Unknown Fields: Tales from the Dark Side of the City. Some of their projects have been collected by institutions such as The New York Metropolitan Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney.
In partnership with the Architectural Association. Commissioned by The Victoria and Albert Museum.
Film and Photography in collaboration with Toby Smith, Ceramics work in collaboration with the London Sculpture Workshop, Animation assistance from Christina Varvia.