Artist: Zoe Barcza
Exhibition title: Mother’s Milk
Venue: IN EXTENSO, Clermont-Ferrand, France
Date: October 12 – December 16, 2017
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and IN EXTENSO
A Labrador retriever lingered near a table, studying the two men sitting there, closely. Her name was Elle. She got her name from her mother Catherine, who was hit by a taxi and killed when Elle was still a puppy. The men were Theo and Vincent. Theo drank wine from a small bony cup he cradled in his hands. He pointed it toward Vincent’s glass.
He said, “That water is undrinkable you know.” He flicked the end of his cigarette away and immediately began rolling another one. “There are microplastic particles in the water. They get into your bloodstream, mixes in with your bones. They get lodged somewhere in your throat. And your breathing will deteriorate fast.”
Vincent inspected his glass in disbelief. “What about bottled water?” he asked.
“Even worse. Diarrhea in the best case.”
“But isn’t this water used for cooking our food?”
“Yeah, so? What choice do I have. Starving?” Theo said.
“There’s ‘plastic’ everywhere,” Vincent replied, making little brackets with his fingers, “If you look for it.”
“And I do look for it. So you eat squid?”
“You eat seafood but you don’t eat ‘meat’,” Theo said, returning the brackets.
“I eat animals from the sea because I can’t visualize them screaming.”
“Right, so voice is the only expression of suffering?”
“Anyway, it’s not a moral thing for me.”
“I’ll eat anything,” Theo said. “My ancestors ate meat so you could be here.”
20 MINUTES LATER…
“… and the pipes are actually lined with lead, and the water running through them heavily fluoridated. Fluoride calcifies your pineal gland. Makes you stupid. Kills your vision. Deprives you of sleep. Forces things into premature puberty.” Theo took a long, gut-wrenching drag on his cigarette, before he continued, “Soon enough we’ll be a race of impotent insomniacs. Fucking each other at the age of ten. The next few decades won’t exactly be pretty. It’s gonna be a perverted Soviet democracy… ”
“Soviet, or your Dark individualism,” Vincent said. “I like living in a society that takes care of me, so maybe I can just be without questioning everything.”
“I never thought I would be the one longing for the past. But at least I can choose to live in my memories.”
“You are a creature of comfort. Theo, just look at us. The planet is dying. We’re cutting down the last remaining animals and plants.”
Theo inspected his nails against the table. “And the cold war is back”, he said. “People are murdering and maiming and raping every chance they get. This time, the world is well on its way to hell. Everybody knows it, but at the same time, nobody knows it.“
“At least we’re not alone,” Vincent said and made a nod toward Elle.
Elle got up to leave. She thought to herself, “Good god. Human apes, obsessed with dystopia. And the more they imagine it, the closer they come to it.”
”Did you know the sewage pipes here are 2 inches in diameter?” Theo asked Vincent. “They’re double that size in a normal country. You can’t even flush the toilet paper here. You have to fold it up and put it in the trash bin.”
“I like that somehow,” Vincent said.
They both watched Elle as she sauntered off. When she disappeared around the corner, Theo leaned in over the table.
He made sure no one was around, and said with a raspy voice:
“Vincent, I think she was … listening to us.”
Written by Erik Lavesson for Zoe Barcza’s Mother’s Milk, October 2017.