Does production make for a better tomorrow? By focusing on residential spaces, industrial debris, and urban waste, Yi-Chih Lai raises issues of individual rights and the environmental impact sacrificed in the pursuit of economic development in contemporary capitalistic society. Through his three works, Daily Life Portrait I, The Concealed Landscape, and Let’s Get Planting, he considers whether the “logic of endless material production” can truly bring us a better tomorrow.
Daily Life Portrait I documents through photographs and recorded interviews the daily lives of residents in and around the Mailiao Naphtha Cracking Petrochemical Industrial Zone in Yunlin, Taiwan. The omnipresent petrochemical industrial landscape looms large behind the residents’ homes, like an enormous man-made backdrop. The sound files record villagers from Mailiao and Taixi describing their powerlessness to change the ever-worsening living environment while the petrochemical industrial zone grows ever more powerful.
From the angle of remnants, The Concealed Landscape takes a fresh look at landscapes created by the accumulation of industrial debris and urban waste. The masses of debris, forming mounds with the appearance of hillsides, become visual data that are difficult to categorize. The faded photo effect on these images points to the way in which these materials often go unnoticed.
Let’s Get Planting extends these issues into daily living, industrial production, urban consumerism, and the cycle of remaining debris. The artist collects the incinerator slag discarded in large quantities by the rice farms in Qingshui, Taichung, and mixes this into cement to create flowerpots. As containers for plant life, flowerpots are a conduit that brings human beings closer to nature. Through the transformation of incinerator slag into flowerpots, Lai questions the possibilities for a balance in the interactions between humans and nature. During the exhibition period, these flowerpots will be available for purchase using a QR code ordering system, so that the final remnants of consumerism can return to the cycles of the consumer system.