Mixed media installation
2.9 liters of purified wastewater, custom made weight of concrete, gold mirror stainless steel
Developed with the support of the AiR-program for the 5th Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art, National Centre for Contemporary Arts, Ural Branch and the City of Bergen. HD–video by Roman Vlasov.
Per Capital is a site-related art project that explores what is recognized as the technically possible, while economically unachievable task of cleaning polluted wastewater. Here 2.9 liters of contaminated drainage water has been collected from an abandoned mine in Degtyarsk, in the Urals region in an attempt to make it drinkable (the calculated mean per capita, or the necessity of one person’s needs of clean drinking water per day).
Besides its vital importance to all aspects of life, water plays vital roles in manufacturing processes and economic well-being. In recent decades the increase in water use on a global scale has exceeded twice the global population growth leading to more and larger regions in the world being exposed to water stress with the associated social, political, and environmental implications. Additionally, the water utilities sector has for long experienced a lingering lack of political support, poor governance and underinvestment exposing that water quality is amenable to policy choice, since wastewater can be treated.
The Russian Federation ranks second in the world for global water resources with the largest reservoir of fresh water. With an average residential water use of 248 liters per capita per day, 80 million cubic meters of wastewater sludge is produced annually making the water utilities sector one of Russia’s largest industries. Of the amount of wastewater passing through the plants only 28 per cent is treated, while the rest is discharged, insufficiently treated, into rivers, lakes and the sea.
In the Urals region (one of the largest pyritic provinces in the world and the leading mining center of Russia) a large number of mines have recently been closed and flooded. In many of them acid mine drainage water continues to form and this pollute outflow which significantly exceeds permissible values are entering surface and groundwater as one of the leading causes of contamination in the Sverdlovsk region.
In formulation of this exhibition, a case study of the abandoned copper and sulfur pyrite mines of Degtyarsk (67 km west of Yekaterinburg) has exposed wastewater pH levels measuring around 2.5 and in addition to copper, zinc, gold, silver, sulfur, iron, arsenic, selenium, cadmium and other elements as well as industrial and household waste.
Performing a process of limestone pH neutralization, gravel and sand filtering, distillation and finally remineralization, 2.9 liters of collected wastewater has been purified for human consumption. The filtered toxins along with lime and stone materials used in the process, have been bonded into a weight of concrete. The Per Capital installation consists of the purified water (sealed in a cylinder, 163.9 centimeter, average human height) positioned in juxtaposition to the weight of contaminants and materials needed for the purification process. Accompanying is video documentation, five parallel HD-videos screened without sound.