The world is a verb

Batteries die all the time

The world is a verb is an ongoing project by Vibeke Mascini, in which pieces of used clothing are re-imagined by turning them inside out and sewing additional labels within their seams. A series of t-shirts are this way made to be a walking, ever-extending publication. The labels hold stories about the transference and metamorphoses between matter, energy, language and memory.

Within the context of Mater, Mascini presents the second edition of shirts, including texts by Chaveli Sifre, Daisy Hildyard and Zazie Stevens, as well as her own writing. This series of texts builds on the first edition, which included texts by  Laurie Anderson, Mihnea Mircan and Robin Wall Kimmerer.

The title embroidered on the shirt's chest is set in Dove’s type, which was recovered from river Thames after nearly a century underwater.


Waterlilies 1/2
by Daisy Hildyard

Flowers float on the surface of the pond - Roots trail in water - Slender stalks descend to rhizomes inside silt - Microbes colonize the rhizomes - The flowers, via rhizomes, procreate - The painter studies the pond without seeing microbes, rhizomes or silt - He looks carefully, for a long time - His painted flowers are flowerier than the real flowers - The paint contains cadmium, lead, cobalt, metal salts - The plants contain cellulose and lignin - Thick oils would smother cell structures if spilled across the surface of the pond - The real flowers drift apart in gradations - The painter cannot see the drift - The painted flowers exist at a scale that is larger than reality - The painted flowers are still - The painter stands on a continent - Each coated hair on the brush contains many separable infinitesimal gradations of colour - The continents, larger than the flowers, are also drifting apart - Plates clash - Faultlines arise over aeons - Mountains, thrust up when the planet was young, frame the painter’s continent - The painter is making an image of peace


Thoughts on the weight of batteries
by Vibeke Mascini

Over time I have come to experience the ‘battery projects’ I work on less like sculptures and more like performances. No fixed shapes but time based by default. This may sound confusing because most of these projects I make have a bulky appearance. That is true, at least for the batteries, which unlike the elegant storage characteristics of biological fat have the clunky nature of human technology. To give an example, when I still intended to store the entire amount of electricity generated from incinerating a whale carcass inside a battery, I was informed that I would need a battery storage twice the volume of the whale to contain it electric counterpart. Even that was an optimistic estimation.

The fact that currently available batteries are still so unwieldy has become incredibly apparent to me whenever installing exhibitions or moving studios. It’s the very reason for my relief to currently have a studio on the ground floor as working with electricity has made my work surprisingly weighty. So yes, there is that inescapable volume to my projects. Which I’ve come to understand as the paradoxical materiality of electricity. For electricity may be (relatively) weightless but, the lithium, aluminium and copper inside batteries certainly are not. Electricity may only take in the minute space of and between electrons but the cables, wires, pylons, and power facilities are more expansive. Not even to speak of the material implications of the sources from which electricity is derived.

Never have I looked at an electricity pylon and imagined to look in the sparky face of electricity, and yet it is electricity’s vehicle, it’s permanent scaffolding. Within my projects that’s how I approach these batteries; as the cumbersome mooring onto which electricity can temporarily latch. Rather than the essence of my work, the batteries are the reminder of the technological state of affairs – with all its electrical advancements and shortcomings – in which our society currently finds itself. Once the swich is lifted and the battery starts to discharge, my projects enter transformation. And the main subject to the work makes its way out like a ghostly visitor and a brute force at once. This transition is not much unlike the way a block of ice that is once solid and outlined, may liquify and evaporate over time. Not much unlike a carcass, that is eaten and carried off by other bodies or otherwise destroyed. However, even when a battery dies, it remains. Its sculptural contour stays unaltered and yet the performance is over. At that point I would say the work I composed has ceased to exist because the main subject has run out and relocated.


Life Force
by Chaveli Sifre

The world, with its rare earth desires and pure metallic bonds, is asking you to dream; vitalist, animist voices want you to hallucinate. Strictly together, give in. Life force is no longer organic or inorganic, life force simply is. A powder that breeds the soil, a magnet that guides a stream. Ammonium nitrate is typically odorless when pure, but once it starts to decompose it releases ammonia gas. The kind of gas that fills your kitchen and your bath. Strong, pungent, sharp, penetrating, like a stab, like a collision, like that memory you keep in the back of the heart. If you love something you must fertilize it. Can I fertilize a fossil? Can we keep this dream? Such is the duality of life, that is the ultimate key. To fertilize and to explode. You must know this, it’s my last message before losing contact - before transitioning. You must understand. The dance of history reveals a profound truth: what can produce growth may also ignite loss. Explosions in the field, the heart must pump but at what cost? Do not stop exploding. Tenderly part the wetted soil. Do not stop returning to the earth, be it water, powder or breath: give in, fall, spill, be absorbed, become ashes, become loss, merge and dissolve. Death is a seed.


by Vibeke Mascini

We are electrically illiterate. I suspect that the general level of unfamiliarity with the trajectories of the electricity that charges and moves our most mundane activities is not because of the denial of an individual person or facility, but rather of the opaqueness of an entire infrastructure that denies the very possibility to trace back. The electric grid is like a body of water, where every drop that is added can never again be retrieved. Add a drop of electricity to the grid and it dissolves. It runs through no cable in particular, it runs through all of them simultaneously.


by Zazie Stevens

The rupture they did not foresee nevertheless happened. As the result of an invisible force incessantly at work. The lovers do not remember their first silences, their first avoidances, producing this erosion. Overnight, fine fractures turned to a crack; the minuscule has become infinite and everything between them is now contaminated.

Nothing escapes the process, each modification is synchronized to the point of inversion; it is as invisible to them as the air they breathe. One day something vapid happens and the lovers realize their love is over. The situational has prevailed over the personal. Nothing appears to change from day to day until all is different. Shared complicity morphed into indifference, and in spite of their efforts, the lovers no longer have a future. Covering their crevasses, like trying to stop a flow of water (even if only a small stream, even if only a trickle) with bare hands. Tiny tragedies invisible and silent enough to not be differentiated, to not be perceptible. We seem not equipped to sense these most unassuming influences, arising from infinite factors, infinitesimally. In the course of days and seconds, slowly but steadily spreading like an oil slick, recoiling back to us.

We no more see temperatures rise than we see rivers carve out their beds or seas eat into shores, yet worlds perish in front of our eyes continuously; this invisible force, forming, wearing away and softening all the folds of the scene. From one day to the next, we find ourselves amidst irreversibly shaped landscapes.


Waterlilies 2/2
by Daisy Hildyard

Floating waterlilies almost blur together like paint on a surface of pondering nothing between us yellow white stroking tipping baby pink on dark water still passive ornamental subtly moving at a pace beyond the sensing continuous with landmasses serenely taking flight through expanding space between watering opening to bees above the waterflowering blurs two beings pistil stamen diploid seeding past the speeding pistil flowering to the back end weighed down with pollen the bee above the seedling ‘flower’, which seemed to doing nothing, flowering, and cupping handing us open faced clock workings hiding a wet round mouth airing deeply watering time tendrils extending into primordial horizon forever closing close to blur peacefully suspending time babying pink white peace annex surface peace watching deep dark peace second watching up pace black hole wet yellow flag iris black iris go faster yellow stripe black stripe bee pollen bum around a continent floating on an expanding face heavy stuff little be tranquil

Using fluid media including video, installation, sound and text, Vibeke Mascini explores the sensorial scaling of abstract phenomena, with the intention to seek agency from intimacy. In long-term collaboration with scientists, engineers, government employees, and musicians she proposes the development of a conscious understanding of electric energy as a statement of interconnectedness and entanglement – between species, media and nature, matter and energy. By exploring the complex relationship between source and user, and focusing on the material implications of unlikely sources from which electricity is derived, Mascini proposes installations where memories and mysterious sensorial experiences meet the newest technology of the rapidly growing field of energy storage systems.

Her unlikely sources of electricity include a whale carcass, a melting glacier, confiscated cocaine, and human remains, which she then shapes around associations with these electric agents, and their implication and tension of their destruction in the process of becoming fuel.