Polymerization (Space Invasion)

Fabienne Levy Gallery, Lausanne
The photograph, nature morte aux pommes is a reference to the famous painting by Cézanne. Nevertheless, it is unmistakably clear that it is an image of our time: wrapped around the apples is a plastic bag. In his essay « Le plastique » Roland Barthes wrote: « C‘est la première matière magique qui consente au prosaïsme; mais c‘est précisément parce que ce prosaïsme lui est une raison triomphante d‘exister: pour la première fois, l‘artifice vise au commun, non au rare »1. It seems he antici- pated something that has now grown into one of the big challenges of our time: there is too much plastic. Because this material was destined to be something common, it’s everywhere. There’s so much plastic that « scientists suggest the plastic layers could be used to mark the start of the Anthropocene, the proposed geological epoch in which human activities have come to dominate the planet. They say after the bronze and iron ages, the current period may become known as the plastic age »2. Today’s discourse of plastic is based on a double standard: There’s a distinction between valuable plastic used in design, from cars to cellphones that we cherish and value; and single-use plastic – bags, packaging and so on – that we use only as a means without considering it valuable. The visual language to depict single-use plastic is negative, at the same time the capitalist system keeps growing and with it the advertisement and sale of plastic. The photographs work around this affection and aversion towards the same material: in some images, single-use plastic has a magical, sculp- tural quality, whilst in others, it fills the frame and evokes a feeling of suffocation. «Ainsi, plus qu‘une substance, le plastique est l‘idée même de sa transformation infinie, il est, comme son nom vulgaire l‘indique, l‘ubiq- uité rendue visible; et c‘est d‘ailleurs en cela qu‘il est une matière miraculeuse: le miracle est toujours une conversion brusque de la nature. Le plastique reste tout imprégné de cet étonnement: il est moins objet que trace d‘un mouvement »3.

1 & 3 Roland Barthes, Mythologies, Edition du Seuil, Paris: 1957.
2 Damian Carrington, „After bronze and iron, welcome to the plastic age, say scientists“, in The Guardian, UK: 2019.