The City Of The Two Seas
The city of Taranto, Italy, has an infamous reputation; a reputation that is linked to its high level of pollution. With the cities close proximity to the pollution emitting Ilva steelworks - the largest in Europe - ‘the cancer death rate is 15% above the national average and lung cancer deaths at 30% higher’ than that of the rest of Italy. Local prosecutors have suggested that the potency of the emissions have ‘killed 400 people in thirteen years’. The Ilva steelworks, owned by Italy's Riva family, employs twelve thousand and breathes life into the depressed local economy. It has been stated that the ‘location has long been accused of killing off local people by belching into the air a mix of minerals, metals and carcinogenic dioxins’*. With various overt campaigns to stop the levels of pollution from the city, concern for the inhabitants of the city has grown. Protesters have used marketing to prompt a closure to the works, which includes stickers stating 'ILVA is a killer', politically charged graffiti and protests taking place daily. The area of Taranto is an environmental contradiction of toxins and beauty with a war between locals, Italian economy and the Riva family.
The work The City of the Two Seas - coming from the nickname of Taranto - evokes an ideology of an area expressing a persistent beauty; despite the levels of pollution. In an area of rural abandonment, and situated directly between the cemetery and the Ilva steelworks, the project considers the duality of such a location with its surrounding natural landscape. The locations close proximity to the cemetery houses an association with the Taranto residents and purports an even greater prominence; as the work gives both homage to Taranto’s deceased and the effect upon the landscape of the airborne pollution. With the area being policed by Ilva security the work - influenced by the objectivity of the New Topographics - comprises a surveillance aesthetic. Despite the project's objective nature it is expected to be used - as a visual tool - to support the on-going plight to permanently close the Ilva steelworks.
*Quotations have been used from Tom Kington’s article, ‘Italian town fighting for its life over polluting Ilva steelworks’ published within The Guardian newspaper in August 2012.