Humans have spent millennia on earth, yet it is only during the past 150 years that we have made an indelible, irreversible imprint on our planet. Plastics, for instance, cannot be broken down by natural processes, and will remain on the earth for many centuries. For the Istanbul Biennial, Aude Pariset is showing a piece that reflects on human interaction with natural ecology, as well as their entanglement with notions of domestic space and child-rearing.
In Toddler Promession® (2016), a mattress made from Styrofoam, a notoriously non-biodegradable material, has been placed in an Ikea infant’s cot and filled with molitor worms. Scientists have recently discovered that these worms (also known as mealworms) are able to live off Styrofoam and break it down into organic matter. Inspired by this finding, and its potentially radical ecological implications, Pariset has created a work where, over the course of the exhibition, the molitor worms will slowly devour the Styrofoam and process it into excrement.
An immediate, uncanny quality is produced by the use of a piece of domestic furniture usually associated with young children repositioned as the foodstuff of larval insects typically linked to sites of uncleanliness, disgust or horror. Yet this disorienting, haunted feeling collides with the work’s enactment of a significant, positive and reparative scientific intervention: making biodegradable material out of Styrofoam mattresses that would otherwise poison the earth’s ecosystem. The word ‘promession’ in the work’s title refers to a process in which human remains have been freeze-dried into a biodegradable substance, ameliorating the ecological footprint of the disposal of corpses in an age of overpopulation. The term stems from the Italian word for ‘promise’, suggesting in the context of this work a sense of hope for the future. But while ‘toddler’ may refer either to the absent inhabitant of the cot or to the larval worms, it might also evoke an image of destructive humans who, like toddlers, are wreaking havoc on the earth.