The Anthropocene is no longer just theory, but has become a part of today‘s life experience. Set against this epoch-defining backdrop, the ongoing project The Shape of Things to Come traces current developments in various formats, spaces and time dimensions. In the form of an innovative ‘blue sky’ think tank, it is interdisciplinarily accompanied by actors from artistic fields as well as by scholars from the humanities and natural sciences. Considering the impacts of climate change and the effects of an increasingly unbridled economy, the project takes the human-induced transformation of nature as a starting point for a series of open experiments.
Floating Archive
Silverstone Supra
Silverstone Supra
Hardshell
Hardshell
Deepwater Horizon
Deepwater Horizon
DuPont Beachrock
DuPont Beachrock
Within the framework of the digital platform, the project focuses on the exceptional and only recently discovered phenomenon of pyroplastics. These are special items made wholly of plastics that primarily stem from the manufacturing of mass-produced goods from the mid-twentieth century. As carelessly discarded waste, the plastic elements were subsequently exposed to maritime weather conditions for decades, over the course of which they steadily took on the visual appearance of natural stones. However, due to their external appearance, they now accumulate unnoticed on numerous beaches and coastal regions across the world. From this perspective, pyroplastic can be thought of as an originally artificial element that, through succeeding processes, gradually has become an inextricably part of our nature.

On a further note, the existence of these synthetic stones refers in a direct manner to the consequences of the excessive use of plastics, for which the industrial production has exploded from 2.3 million tonnes in 1950 to an estimated 448 million tonnes in 2015. Yet, in addition to the problem of plastic pollution, the production of plastics concurrently involves an intensive use of natural resources whereby mineral oil still assumes a primary role within today‘s manufacturing processes. Thus, the phenomenon of pyroplastics as well is closely connected with the diverse environmental intrusions that come from the global extraction and distribution cycles of crude oil. In light of such aspects, it becomes apparent that the occurrence of these synthetic stones illustrates the present dissolution of boundaries between artificial and natural materials in a multi-layered manner. But what significance does pyroplastic as a material repository of modern cultural and natural history imply? To what degree does it reveal new perspectives on the current problem areas surrounding ecological destruction? And could pyroplastic possibly even be considered a potential future resource that can be reintegrated into the market from nature through visionary recycling concepts?

Tying in with these questions, the modular and continuously expanding platform investigates the phenomenon of pyroplastic from various perspectives. Deepwater Horizon, for example, concerns the manifestation of tarballs, which is typically a reference to clumps of weathered oil that stem from a chemical interaction between crude oil, seawater and sun during oil spills. This topic is supplemented by an archive list in which an algorithm constantly produces data on pertinent oil disasters of the past and present. Contrastingly, Hardshell, Silverstone Supra and DuPont Beachrock bring different types of pyroplastic to the fore and examine them in terms of their material, aesthetic, and historical attributes. By intertwining the images with textual elements, systemic and personal links associatively become apparent. In addition to that, fictional future scenarios explore the long-term effects of pyroplastics on affected seashores and ecosystems in a speculative manner.
Polypropylene

Most probably the plastic polypropylene was first synthesised in 1951 by John Paul Hogan and Robert Banks. From 1957 onwards, the chemist Giulio Natta worked together with the Italian company Montecatini on a process for its industrial production. The establishment of polypropylene as a mass production material eventually came to pass from the early 1960s onwards through companies such as Phillips Petroleum, Hercules, Spencer Chemical, and Capac Plastics. Furthermore, the Farbwerke Hoechst AG in Frankfurt operated as a key production site for several years.

Polypropylene has a comparatively flexible molecular structure and displays strong variations in relation to average molar mass and copolymers. Therefore, a large number of grades of polypropylene with different properties exist. In general, polypropylene has a greater stiffness, hardness, and strength than polyethylene. Additionally, polypropylene is characterised by a strong deformability at extreme temperatures. With a density between 0.895 g/cm3 and 0.92 g/cm3, polypropylene is also one of the plastics with the greatest buoyancy.

Owing to its particular properties, polypropylene is still widely used in a variety of areas today. For example, it plays an essential role in car interiors and in the production of machines and electrical appliances. In the form of pipes, yarns, closures, and films it is as well an important raw material in the construction, textile and household goods industries. In Australia and New Zealand, polypropylene is also used to make dirt- and water-resistant banknotes.
Credits
©2021 - All rights reserved.

Concept and Coastal Research: Dennis Siering
dennissiering.com

Design and Coding: Profi Aesthetics
profi-aesthetics.eu

Introduction and Advisory: Stefan Vicedom
(Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, University of Cape Town)

Photography and Color Grading: Stefan Stark
Video: Boris Doerning

Many thanks to Dr. Melanie Bergmann (Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven ) and Dr. Andrew Turner (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Plymouth) for helpful hints and scientific informations. Funded by Cultural Foundation of Hesse/ Hessian Ministry for Science and Art „Hessen kulturell neu eröffnen“ and Stiftung Kunstfonds, Bonn





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