anthropoScene III : Hellisheiði

anthropoScene III : Hellisheiði

Three-screen video installation about the Climeworks/CarbFix2 project at Hellisheiði, Iceland, the world’s first industrial-scale “carbon scrubbing” experiment to capture carbon dioxide (CO₂) directly from Earth’s atmosphere

Selfoss | Started on 01/10/2018

At COP21 in Paris, December 2015, the world’s leaders stated their “aspiration” to limit global warming to an upper limit of 1.5ºC this century. On the planet’s present greenhouse gas emissions trajectory the IPCC suggests that there is no way to achieve this without geoengineering (climate engineering): using technology — untested at scale and with unknown potential side-effects — to “modify” our climate. Despite being both difficult and expensive it has proven politically attractive as a “technofix”, an excuse to delay decarbonisation. Indeed all forms of geoengineering potentially come with what ethical philosophers such as Clive Hamilton identify as “moral hazards”. Many forms of geoengineering essentially propose that we “hack” the Earth System — or at least fiddle with its thermostat.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS), is arguably the most benign of these technologies. Since October 2017 this other-worldly test site has been capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air surrounding Reykjavík’s geothermal power station: anthropogenic greenhouse gases are sequestered in stone. Video artist Adam Sébire is drawn to this site for its modern-day alchemy and its post-industrial Promethean overtones: an unshakeable faith in the technological mastery of Homo sapiens.

In the video triptych, one of the three screens investigates the experiments at Hellishei∂i (the injection wells of CarbFix plus Climeworks’ white cube “carbon scrubber” DAC module, a prototype for what is expected to be many thousands spread across the planet). In another, a core sample of the sequestered CO₂ — now mineralised as calcite within the basalt host rock — appears as a quasi-mystical object. The third screen is more ambiguous: set in a future geological era where complex lifeforms seem to have disappeared, and where the planet is correcting an atmospheric imbalance. Now, geological processes reverse. After only a few hundred thousand years, homeostasis — equilibrium — will have returned.

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