athens ingot project (copper)

Athens Ingot project (copper) 
A two-part project for Documenta 14
Athens, Greece/Kassel, Germany
Spring/Summer 2017

copper ingot casting (Athens) from dp on Vimeo.

Athens Ingot Project (copper) began with visits to landfills, scrap dealers, buybacks,  storage yards and regionally based industries in and around Athens.  This eventually lead to the purchase and recommissioning of a hand-made circular “ingot casting” table discovered in the chicken coop of a local scrap yard. The heavy steel construction and simple turn-table design of the ingot table offered the possibility of initiating a modest, but potentially endless production of ingots. This opened an avenue for directly engaging in local material networks and, with the assistance of a local foundry, begin a production of ingots from scrap copper.

The ingot-casting table, ingots, and a stock of scrap copper wire and pipe are now installed at the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) venue of documenta 14 in Athens. These elements, while statically installed in the exhibition,  retain the potential to be  re-activated in the future, and put into ingot production in other cities, and other scrap metal networks.
Additionally, one of the copper ingots is simultaneously being displayed in the Numismatic Museum of Athens.

A recycled metal ingot–in the context of the complex waste and recycling enterprises of Athens–is a marker of transformation. An ingot exists between a past generation of obsolete, and disintegrated things; and a future generation of not-yet-made things. It is metal cast into a holding pattern.  The moment of its manufacture—when molten metal is poured into the ingot mold– marks a transformation from industrial waste processes,  grey market scavenging networks, and other drifting currents within the waste stream. The ingot gains entry into a new world of manufacturing processes and international commodity markets.  In this moment of ingot production a link is made between local and global economies.

Copper ingots produced from scrap copper are tipped from mold

Athen's dense urban landscape and material recycling networks are energized by active and highly visible street scavenging, diverse recycling businesses, as well as international trade through the port of Pireus. The severe stresses of enforced economic “austerity measures” have heavily impacted business owners and independent scavengers alike as they scramble to develop strategies for managing their material operations under increasingly difficult economic conditions. Global economic pressures mount as the new harbormasters of Pireus–the Chinese shipping conglomerate Cosco–streamline the flow of cheap Asian goods and commodities into Greece and the European market.

National Archeological Museum of Athens,  copper “oxhide” ingot

The specific focus on ingots and ingot production followed a visit to the National Archeological Museum of Athens and a copper “oxhide” ingot on display—and was later reinforced by learning of the “Ingot God” from Enkomi, now in  a museum in Nicosia, Cyprus; a bronze, spear-toting  “smiting figure.” This figurine was typical except that it had been retrofitted to a surfing stance atop a copper ingot; a deity locally adapted to the production and trade of copper ingots.  These historical objects directly link centuries of Mediterranean copper technology and trade–to contemporary networks of copper manufacturing and recycling.

Archeologist with copper ingot
Ingot God of Enkomi, Cyprus Museum, Nicosia, Cyprus

In the midst of financial crisis, copper sources include wire and pipe extracted from unsecured or abandoned buildings, and at times even copper elements removed from functioning city infrastructure. At every turn, material recovery networks and economies are interwoven with specific labor histories, and adaptation to local circumstances. The the visible intensity of localized scavenging activity is a direct reflection of the severity of an economic, or other crisis.

Ingot Project installation: EMST

close up of copper ingots from scrap copper and bronze
privately operated scrap recycling vehicle, Athens

copper ingot–removing from mold (Athens) from dp on Vimeo.