PARADOXES OF A DIAMOND
Mixed media installation
vacuum packages with dried algae from the Venice lagoon, Still Life – Venice (Winogradsky column), algal pigment on alga paper, peridotite stone, vitrine with artefacts
Developed with the support of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) and Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (BLM). The project was conducted in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Sciences at University Ca' Foscari in Venice and the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics in Trieste.
Special thanks to Rachel D'Osualdo and Sabina Basset (BLM), Adriano Sfriso, Andrea Sfriso and Alessandro Buosi (University Ca' Foscari), Paola Del Negro and Francesca Malfatti (National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics), the EM facility at the Univeristy of Studies of Trieste and Favini Srl for their generous support.
Nothing is more useful than water: but it will purchase scarce anything; scarce anything can be had in exchange for it. A diamond, on the contrary, has scarce any value in use; but a very great quantity of other goods may frequently be had in exchange for it. – Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
Paradoxes of a Diamond is a site-specific art project, which explores the history of Venice’s lagoon leading to a contemporary ecological perspective and uses the algae as a legitimate biological indicator à of the lagoon's environmental state. It investigates the heavy metal contamination level of three algae species (Gracilaria, Sargassum, Ulva), their accumulation of carbon dioxide and their “utility” as a Co2 reservoir.
Inspired by the Diamond–Water Paradox formulated by Adam Smith in 1776, the project reflects on the economic concepts of use and exchange values, as well as on the marginal utility of an ecosystem. Paradoxes of a Diamond evokes the production of a diamond out of the carbon stored within the algae collected from the contaminated sediment in the central parts of the Venice lagoon. After measuring the levels of carbon and heavy metals of a small sample of algae, 160 kg of extra algae were collected to obtain the required quantity of carbon for the creation of a diamond, which unique coloration would be defined by the metal composition of the algae. The diamond, however, was not chemically synthesised, but instead symbolically represented as a carbon "reservoir" and are thus maintained in a state of potentiality and in the making.