AGE OF AN END
The focus of BENTEN CLAY lies on the production of the long-term project titled Age of an End in which the appearance of the now is analyzed by assessing the limitations of natural resources, their implementations, as well as mechanisms of power and volatility inherent to the human pursuit of control.
An End can be perceived as both an opening and a limitation, implying both an opportunity for change or an alarming ultimatum. It may signify limited resources, political leftovers, synonyms for destruction, and at the same time mark the beginning of transformation.
Modern society is driven mainly by ideas of progress, political power and economic value, disregarding the fact that every invention, every political union and every natural resource has its abuttals. Responsibility for those limits is not taken or easily pushed away by distributing falsified information or by manipulating perspectives.
With the project Age of an End, BENTEN CLAY enters the terrain of real conditions, addressing different modes of perception as well as the handling of responsibility.
One main theme within Age of an End is the topic Nuclear Waste. Although it is largely understood that nuclear power is a misused form of energy in both ecological and economical planes, there exist 432 active plants worldwide and new ones are being built.
Since 1951— the start of the „ peaceful use of nuclear energy”— there has not yet been a solution for ending the life cycle of nuclear material in a responsible and safe way.
Since 2004, Finland is building the world’s first repository for high-level nuclear waste on the peninsula of Olkiluoto; named „ Onkalo” (finnish for „ little cave”). Onkalo is planned to be filled with spent and cooled down fuel from the Finnish nuclear power plants until the year 2120 and then irretrievably sealed. The construction of this branched system of tunnels, 450 metres deep within the Finnish bedrock, will host 5.000 tons of radioactive waste. It is supposed to secure its contents against external influences and leakages for the next 100.000 years. During this time span, these radioactive materials will continue to radiate and remain highly dangerous to both humans and the environment.
Nuclear power and atomic energy are on the one hand fascinating in technical and scientific terms, and on the other, they conceal a monumental risk. A responsible handling of the interitence of this technology is one of the biggest challenges for human kind. Unthinkable horizons open up in time, and a need to find a way to handle factors that lie beyond the controllable is immanent.
BENTEN CLAY investigates various parameters of the entity „final repository“, particularly regarding trust in the Human Factor.
Another topic within Age of an End—consequently as an answer to Nuclear Waste— is the examination of alternatives to nuclear energy. To this end BENTEN CLAY did some field research in Iceland.
Iceland is geologically characterized by a high density of volcanic systems and a wealth of natural energy sources. Through the utilization of Geothermal energy and hydro power, the Icelandic population as well as the nation’s economy can be supplied with sufficient amounts of electricity.
Icelandic politics over the last decades have been inked by privatization and exploitation policies that undermine the country’s natural resources. It was ascertained that with a complete exhaustion of all of its Geothermal sources and the possibility of producing hydro electric power, a massive electricity surplus could be generated that could bring Iceland – already one of the wealthiest nations in the world – even more prosperity and worldwide recognition. Through the marketing campaign of „the world’s lowest energy prices“, foreign heavy industry was taken in, and Iceland became one of the most attractive locations for smelting aluminium. The environmentally harmful industry in itself requires a high amount of energy, one which is being gained through artificial jams of rivers and the modification and industrialization of natural waterfalls that ruin the ecological balance.
In 2006 a large-scale project was realized: the Kárahnjúkar dam in the highlands of east Iceland, it supplies the American company Alcoa with energy. The construction of the dam implied barricading 2 ecologically important glacier rivers and the flooding of 57 square meters of land, resulting in the disappearance of 70 waterfalls and the destruction of the last wilderness territory of Europe. The Kárahnjúkar dam offends international ecological and social standards, amongst other things because of its seismic subterrestrial instability.
The whole process is disputable: the argumentation of the politicians towards the public, ripe with vacant promises of jobs and prosperity, the disregard of international expertise, the sale of natural areas to foreign corporate conglomaterates for the construction of power stations and heavy industry, opaque commissioning, devastating contractual terms for Iceland and in the end, unprofitable revenues.
BENTEN CLAYs interest inhabits the tension between seemingly untouched nature and human excess.