ingot project

two-part project of Documenta 14
Kassel, Germany/ Athens, Greece
Spring/Summer 2017

The Ingot project explores material scavenging and recycling networks in both Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany including research visits to landfills, scrap dealers, buybacks, storage yards and regionally based manufacturers.  

A recycled metal ingot–in the context of complex waste and recycling enterprises–functions as a complex object of transformation: an in-between object resting between a generation of obsolete, and disintegrating things; and a future generation of things not yet manufactured. An ingot is designed to await further processing. It is matter in a modular holding pattern–whether it is in storage, or circulating like a primitive form of currency. The moment of its manufacture—when molten metal is poured into the ingot mold—marks a transition from industrial waste processes, cash-only grey market scavenging enterprises, and other drifting currents within the waste stream; to global commodity markets and up-to-the-minute valuations. 

The Ingot project explores two material networks: copper and iron. Materials that have deeply impacted European history from earliest bronze age developments to developments in 19th and 20th century iron industry. Both materials continue to play important roles in contemporary manufacturing, scavenging, and recycling processes. 

copper ox-hide ingot 12th century BCE 
Athens Archeo. Museum

ATHENS (copper)

The Athens Ingot Project (copper) established a small-scale production of copper ingots utilizing a hand made circular “ingot casting” table that Peterman discovered in a local scrap yard and purchased from the owner.  With heavy steel construction and turn-table design, this simple device offered the possibility of endless ingot production, and opened an avenue for engaging in local material networks. The ingot-casting table is exhibited at D14 at the EMST venue in Athens, along with ingots produced with the table in a local foundry, and a stock of scrap copper wire and pipe. These elements, while static in the current exhibition, retain the potential to be  re-activated, and put into ingot production in other cities, and other scrap metal networks. One of the ingots produced in Athens is being displayed in the Numismatic Museum of Athens.

Athens has a dense urban landscape and material networks energized by active street scavengers, diverse recycling businesses, and the international trade through the port of Pireus. The severe stresses of enforced economic “austerity measures” have heavily impacted business owners and more isolated scavengers as they scramble to develop strategies for managing their material operations under increasing difficult economic conditions. Global economic pressures mount as the new harbormasters of Pireus–the chinese shipping conglomerate Cosco as of 2016–streamline the flow of cheap asian goods and commodities into Greece and the European market.

The specific focus on ingots and ingot production was triggered by the copper “oxhide” ingot on display in the National Archeological Museum of Athens—followed by researching the “Ingot God” from Enkomi, Cyprus; a bronze, spear-toting  “smiting figure” typical except that it had been uniquely retrofitted to a surfing stance atop a copper ingot; a deity locally adapted to the production and trade of copper ingots.  These historical objects and networks of circulation, and recycling, provided a counterpoint to contemporary copper recycling that includes scavenging of wire and pipe extracted from unsecured or abandoned buildings, wire stripped from from electric motors, and at times even copper elements removed from functioning city infrastructure. (The severity of an economic crisis in proportion to the intensity of localized scavenging activity).

KASSEL (iron)

In Kassel, The project followed consumer scrap networks into larger industrial recycling processes that link both consumers and industries; including local manufacture of vehicles and military equipment in Kassel, to the broader german economy.

For this project Peterman collaborated with DK in Duisberg Germany one of Europe’s oldest recycling companies that through a unique manufacturing process, recovers iron from the waste dusts produced by other european iron and steel factories. The dust–produced in large quantities and typically a disposal problem–is turned into high quality iron ingots. 

For Peterman this project is an extension of his diverse art making strategies tethered to waste processes and recycling that he has pursued since the mid 1980’s. His materially eclectic, and interdisciplinary work creates occasions for interaction in various industries, exchanges, and social networks, that deepen understanding of pre-existing conditions; opening new perspectives on the way things work, networks function or dysfunction, or seemingly scattered parts interconnect.

Central to this project is the recycled metal ingot itself–an in-between object;  an object that rests between a generation of obsolete, and now disintegrated things, and a future generation of things not yet manufactured. The ingot is matter in a holding pattern–static and in storage, or circulating like a primitive form of currency– its primary, and mostly unseen task is to await further processing. 

Brochure produced for Documenta 14 aimed at drawing parallels between the two ingot projects, both cities of Athens and Kassel, and the two material histories of iron and copper.