The work of South African artist James Beckett (*1977) stems from research-based activity, looking quite naturally backwards. The evolution in specific areas of the industrial revolution have played muse; such as the foundation of synthetic color manufacture and its relationship to BASF, and the cultural implications of vacuum tubes for the Dutch firm Philips. His […]
(the agricultural extract-arrangements)
‘Limburgerhof (the agricultural extract-arrangements)’ is a series of translations and reworkings of material relating to an agricultural research centre.
Formerly a small village producing sugar beet, Limburgerhof (Germany) was developed as housing for workers of the chemical giant BASF, later to become an agricultural research centre in 1914. What began as a small community, grew into a healthy population of approximately 10, 000, many of whom are currently employed in areas of plant protection, plant biotechnology, fine chemistry and fertilisers.
As a division of BASF’s other chemical exploits, the Limburgerhof plant became of key importance in the development of knowledge in the chemical manipulation of crops, including the use of fertilizers. This involved the synthesis of chemicals such as ammonia, a process perfected by the industrialist-chemist and founder of Limburgerhof, Carl Bosch (the Haber-Bosch process). With an idealistic view and manipulation of plant life, the industrial approach to chemical agriculture meant crops of all kinds would prosper through their new-found predictability and sustainability.
There were however several short-comings in the early days of these experiments, in particular the Oppau explosion of 1921, which occurred when a mixture of ammonium-sulfate and nitrate fertilizer had become compacted in a silo. In attempt to dislodge the mass with small dynamite charges, the load ignited, forming a 90 m by 125 m crater and with it, the death of some 600 people. With an air of seeming clarity and know-how, the company products and publications hold a contrasting and apparent wisdom, – a control of processes reflecting a desire to harness the raw depth of nature.
I take Limburgerhof as a series of events and facets, a sort of loose tool kit with which to re-arrange and combine in order to derive new sense. Each piece of information is kept dry and unfettered in order for it to remain compatible with another, – each object precious so as to place emphasis on the seemingly peripheral. In an installation of paintings, sculptures, embroidery and various objects presented in cabinets, an environment is born sitting somewhere between a public communications centre of the Limburgerhof, and craft exhibition of possible chemist employees. With this technique for the approach of a history, the exhibition aims to become a lens, both to review and offer new light on a subject, as well as to practice a visual language purely for an act in itself.
‘Limburgerhof’ is a continuation of the extract-arrangement series, following ‘Dalmine (and other industry extract-arrangements)’ and preceding the ‘fire extract-arrangements’.
This is a sack for containing 100kg of Salpeter, dating from 1919,- as a fertilizing chemical it was highly unstable and exlosive. It was purchased through an antique dealer and originates from the original Limburgerhof research centre. Sack Two is an approximation of the original found object.
Found keysrings issued by as souvenier by Limburgerhof. The one on the right advertises a pesticide used on vegetation. The keyring is shaped like a carrot and doubles as bottle-top opener.
These images are taken from a Limburgerhof report journal. They show four different test cases of chemical fertilization, and the effect on each sample plant, with one week increments.
In 1921, workers at the BASF nitrate plant in Oppau, Germany, were preparing to break up gigantic blocks of chemical fertilizer with dynamite. Nine million pounds of mixed ammonium nitrate and sulphate exploded with tremendous power. The factory was blown to pieces and half of Oppau was destroyed in the blast.
Before and after treatments of wheat, unknown fertilizer
BASF had a collaboration with a design firm, which under the name of BASF/ Luran made various kitchen utensils. Here the pair forms a logo which is embroidered onto the sleeve and cuff of a shirt, an apparent commemorative item for potential factory worker.
This is another in a continual play of parts to become emblems or logos of sorts. This arrangment is made up of old BASF issue utility knives and plates from a former canteen of the company.
Painting of a photo from a jubilee edition of the centre, showing the fields for chemical fertilizers, herbicide and pesticide experimentation.