PADA residency,Barreiro 2022

No Thanks to us (2022) video projection on found screens, gallery at PADA, Barreiro Portugal

Despite it all (2022) Photograph on vegetal paper, projected collaged moving image, 4 mins 68” looped, wooden batons

Nostal-dia (2022) black and white photographs on vegetal paper, projection of moving image, slowing alternating from side to side, red and transparent, 6 mins 26 ” looped, found wood, painted frames

Working in the industrial site, CUF, an important part of the chemical and textile industry in Portugal from the 1800s to the early twentieth century, the residency offered me an insight into a utopian vision of labour and progress and the legacy of this history in the toxic landscapes left behind. Barreiro, on the other side of the river Tejo from Lisbon, is full of the abandoned ruins of this history, while also maintaining a thriving manufacturing and chemical sector that still operates today, against the backdrop of an apocalyptic stretch of unusable land, where reds, purples, greens and pinks, the residue or caput mortem of this early industrial processes (such as evaporation pools for the production of sulphuric acid) remain. Pyrite was mined in the central belt of Portugal and Spain (and still is in the Iberian pyrite belt) and brought here to extract its precious minerals. The etymology of the work ‘pyrite’ comes from the Greek ‘pyrites lithos’, meaning a stone or mineral which strikes fire. It is hot here, forest fires break out in the south, materials are melting. It is used for its sulphur and iron oxides which are used to make fertilisers, among many other things. At the turn of the century it was also used in the textile and copperas industry, and as a source of ignition for early firearms. More recently it is being used to make solar panels. It is in part highly toxic as it contains traces of arsenic, which means there are areas that are out of bounds to human habitation until decontaminated. Often called ‘fool’s gold’ for its gold like appearance or shine, it has, in fact, been found to contain small particles of actual gold, but these are very difficult to extract. It is, therefore, what is called a coupled substitution- equally desirable and toxic, useful and destructive. These photographic film stills, projections, object images and photographs, contain traces of caput mortum (the residual dust from the chemical sublimation of pyrite and iron oxides) found at the industrial park here in Barreiro- dark red, purple earthy particles that coat the landscapes of the industrial site. I am looking to work with these traces of ecological and extractivist history at the site, while alluding to the journey across land and sea in a film I made during my four day trip to get here sustainably. Drawing on Derek Jarman’s early experimental films, such as Journey to Aylesbury, I use saturated colours and textures, and collage images one to the other, with minimal sound, to convey the juxtapositions of movement and journeying through these landscapes to arrive, rather than at a sacred ring of standing rocks as Jarman does, at an abandoned ruined architectural fragments that allude to the tempestuous history of industrial landscapes of Barreiro. I project these moving images onto still photographs, to question our encounter and create a space where the spectral and the still meet on the surface of the image.

Through Rose Tinted Glasses (2022) photographic images, collaged projected moving image 5 mins 38′ looped , wooden batons
Palmera (2022) Photographic collage on vegetal paper, hand made frame, concrete breeze block

Coupled Substitution (2022) Photographic print collages on vegetal paper, wooden batons

Baton Rouge (2022) Polaroids supported by painted batons, various found supports

Caput Mortuum (2022) Polaroid emulsion lift onto found rocks from the industrial site at Barreiro, wooden shelf

These polaroid images I first took of the ruins of the industrial site at Barreiro are then subjected to a process of polaroid lift emulsion. This is where using gentle techniques with a small brush in water, the emulsion is slowly teased off the backing plastic and then lifted, delicately onto found rocks from the site itself. In this way I am returning the image to the substance it is representing, creating a three dimensional imprint of the place, that is portable, small, and intimate.

ARTNOM collaborative piece, The Assemblage of Descent (2022), with Padraic Barrett, Aoife Claffey, Kate Mcelroy, Felipe van Laar, Victoria Ahrens- projected moving image onto architectural structure
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By victoriaahrens

My work is concerned with auratic translations, interpretation and fiction in our encounters with the landscape. I use photographic installations, projections and print editions to explore notions of the politics of place, resistance and ruin. I am interested in the spaces between what we know and what we think we know about the world, and have investigated these ideas in a series of installations and prints over the last few years.