Liam Young, 29 04 15


Tomorrows Thoughts Today’s Liam Young and long time collaborator Kate Davies run the Unknown Fields Division. Unknown Fields have launched a new project called Rare Earthenware, developed for the ‘What is Luxury’exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

While journeys to extraordinary places are the cornerstone of luxury travel, this project follows more well-concealed journeys taking place across global supply chains. It retraces rare earth elements, which are widely used in high-end electronics and green technologies, to their origins. A film of the project, developed in collaboration with photographer Toby Smith is composed as a single panning shot along a planetary scaled conveyor belt, documents their voyage in reverse from container ships and ports, wholesalers and factories, back to the banks of a barely-liquid radioactive lake in Inner Mongolia, pumped with tailings from the refining process. To accompany the film, Unknown Fields Division have used mud from this lake to craft a set of three ceramic vessels. Each is proportioned as a traditional Ming vase and is made from the amount of toxic waste created in the production of three items of technology – a smartphone, a featherweight laptop and the cell of a smart car battery.

You can watch the full ‘Rare Earthenware’ film exclusively on our project page at the Guardian

The finished vases are made from the exact amount of toxic waste produced in the manufacture of 3 objects of technology- the smartphone, the laptop and the electric car battery cell. Film Still © Toby Smith/Unknown Fields

Unknown Fields collecting radioactive tailings material from besides the worlds Largest Rare Earth minerals refinery in Inner Mongolia. Film Still © Toby Smith/Unknown Fields

Radiation scientists test the toxic clay collected from the tailings lake and find it to be 3 times background radiation. Film Still © Toby Smith/Unknown Fields

The amount of toxic clay produced in the manufacture of a single smart phone is moulded into a traditional Ming vase form. Film Still © Toby Smith/Unknown Fields

A Chinese factory worker assembles the components of our tech gadgets along a conveyor belt that stretches from Inner Mongolia to a London retail store. Film Still © Toby Smith/Unknown Fields

Rare Earthenware by Unknown Fields. Film and Photography in collaboration with Toby Smith, Ceramics assistance from Kevin Kevin Callaghan, Animation assistance from Christina Varvia


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