Text: Bengt Olof Johansson
The environmental pollution created by the glassworks has made disconcerting headlines in the press. Caroline Mårtensson’s work Reverberation opens a possibility for us as spectators to confront the issue in more detail. What are the real consequences of too much lead, arsenic and cadmium in the ground? How are we to interpret measurements and thresholds? We now have to live with the consequences that were unknown in the past, or ignored for economic reasons by the owners of the production. This is what Reverberation suggests. The structures of repression and ignorance are exactly the same as in the case of so many other contemporary large and small problems. How are we to understand our own best as biological and social beings, and be able to act according to it? Mårtensson uses careful studies of what is known today about the pollution connected to the glass industry and the available plans for cleaning it up to construct her work. She has visited glassworks areas, spoken to those who live and work there, and consulted experts. Two specimens of a number of plants have been collected from ten of the most polluted glasswork areas. These ten places are the most contaminated in all of Sweden. One of the two specimens has been handed in to analysis, and the other has been sealed in different glass containers and lowered into the ground. The recorded levels of lead, arsenic and cadmium in the plant have subsequently been engraved on the surfaces of the outside of the glass containers. Some of the levels are extremely high, others not. The point is that we can relate to, and feel for, the dried plants. Drawing pins on photos of the glassworks make it possible to see where exactly these plants have stood, in what landscape they unknowingly have been poisoned. The simplicity and beauty of this arrangement make the connection brutal. The artist creates a visual form for what we knew but maybe never understood. The difference between art work and a report from a County Administrative Board is enormous. Caroline Mårtensson’s work shows with precision why we need both.