Black Box (02)
Compostable plastic 3D prints (#7 PLA), compost, microbes, soil, sand, waterproof heating mat, digital hygrometer/thermometer, waste materials, acrylic_70 x 52 x 96cm_2019
Black Box (02) is the second iteration of a sculpture that attempts to mimic the conditions of industrial compost facility. Compostable 3D prints made from PLA (polylactic acid) –a plastic derived from corn sugar alleged to be compostable at an industrial scale - are installed inside the sculpture throughout its display. Under the right conditions, they may break down, but without such conditions they are similar to ordinary plastics. Ideal conditions for decomposition have been created inside of Black Box: a waterproof heating mat maintains the right temperature, the heat and the humidity are digitally monitored and manually adjusted, new organics are introduced, microbes are added, the compost is turned, and time-lapse images are taken record the results. When decomposition in the 3D print is witnessed, another print will be introduced to the sculpture, so that theoretically one could witness the different stages of decomposition at the same time.
Black Box (02) is a means to pseudo-scientifically probe the limits of compostable plastic, while investigating the poetics of decomposition. If no decomposition is witnessed even under these optimal conditions, then it is safe to say that the material is not viable as an environmentally friendly product. Whether greenwashing or a viable alternative to plastic, PLA sits strangely at the membrane between an alleged binary: nature and culture. Its position as neither causes us to question both.