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'Waste Works'
wastewater treatment plant, water, pump, kitchen sink, clothing, bricks, pots, wood
Gengenbach 2008

Excerpt from 'Possess to Repossess'
by Valerie Smith

"In Klärwerk (2008), for instance, he indulged in elaborate and intensive efforts to capture ephemeral human residue, to the point where he “crawl[ed] through the drain in the sink after brushing my [his] teeth to arrive somewhere, to get the whole picture. I [He] arrived in the sewage and ultimately in the wastewater treatment plant, which 'cleanses' the waste of all people connected to it—a homogenous flow of enciphered material, carrying the code of the population within the area”. Like a man under the influence, such Houdini-like maneuvers have allowed the artist to bring to public attention the famous “cleansing” corporations of our Western culture, if not, at least, redirect some dirty aspects of our ailing urban environment. "


People of various professions from around the world sent garments of all kinds to the Black Forest, where they were gathered and registered with the personal data of each participant. The clothes had been worn on the job for one full work week. A three-week internship enabled access to a wastewater treatment plant and the adoption of a blue-collar work ethic. A foothold was created within the company, understood as a subliminal system beneath public perception. Klärwerk / Waste Works tapped into the treatment plant’s point of discharge, where the freshly cleansed water was about to be returned to the river. Using an external pump, the water was diverted into a washbasin where the clothes were hand-laundered separately. The dirty water was funneled through a pipe into a cooking pot where it was boiled along with the corresponding piece of textile. The clothes were cooked until an individual concentrate remained.

The individual was manually recovered from the flux as the ever-flowing conglomerate of household and factory effluents was brought to a halt in small glass jars. This stagnant portrait is not dissimilar to a photograph, a frozen moment in time. The captured sample sits in quiet conversation with the immense volume of wastewater masses.