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Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa

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Paradoxes of a diamond

Nothingis more useful than water: but it will purchase scarce anything;scarce anything can be had in exchange for it. A diamond, on thecontrary, has scarce any value in use; but a very great quantity ofother goods may frequently be had in exchange for it.
AdamSmith, 1776


On Tuesday, August 4th, in the inner court of the Natural History Museum of Venice, the project Paradoxes of a Diamond will open to the public. The interdisciplinary and site-specific art project by Cecilia Jonsson explores the Venice Lagoon's sedimentary environment, its dynamics and composition.

The exhibition, which can be visited with the museum ticket during regular admission hours, concludes Jonsson's three months artists residency at the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, Venice, organized with the support of Office for Contemporary Art Norway, Oslo.

The lagoon is a delicately balanced ecosystem where erosion, sedimentation, tidal currents, and salinity combine to produce one ofthe largest wet lands in the Mediterranean, where land and water mingle. It is both an urban Lagoon and a natural part of Veniceas Marcel Proust once captured this paradoxical relation. Its central parts have under gone major changes during the twentieth century, mainly due to anthropogenic impacts from the industrial area, surrounding communities, agricultural practices and from the digging of its two deep canals. These severe hydrodynamic changes have brought with them some serious impacts on the sediments' recycling of nutrients and pollutants, and have led tolerant populations of macro-algae to gradually replace less suitable flora. In recent years the abnormal biomass of the most abundant algae has made necessary their annual removal from the lagoon to prevent the severede-oxygenation of the water.

Paradoxes of a Diamond explores the history of Venice's lagoon leading to a contemporary ecological perspective, and uses the algae as a legitimate biological indicator of the lagoon's environmental state. It investigates the heavy metal contamination level of three algae species (Ulva rigida, Gracilariagracilisand Sargassum muticum) in the lagoon environment, their accumulation of carbon dioxide and their "utility" as a reservoir of carbon.

Inspired by the Diamond- Water Paradox formulated by Adam Smith in 1776, in The Wealth of Nations, the project reflects on the economic concepts of use and exchange values, as well as on the marginal utility of an ecosystem. Paradoxes of a Diamonde vokes the production of a diamond out of the carbon stored within the algae collected from classified C contaminated sediment in the central parts of the lagoon. After measuring the levels of carbon and heavy metals of a small sample of algae, 150kg of extra algae were collected to obtain the required quantity of carbon for the creation of a diamond, which unique coloration would be defined by the metal composition of the collected algae. The diamond, however, was not completely synthetized, but it are instead symbolically represented as a "reservoir" of carbon through an installationconsisting of sealed, vacuum packed bricks of dried algae. Thechemical process of the synthesis of the diamond is thus maintained in a state of incompleteness and potentiality: the diamond is, if you will, a diamond in the making rather than a completed diamond. Its value, then, is more akin to some symbolic use value than to its usual exchange value: it is the paradoxical means of a renewed ecological awareness.

Paradoxes of a Diamond is exhibited as a multiple installation composed of various bricks of storeddried algae, asteel-framed organic painting of Class C sediments from the lagoon in a reinterpretation of the Winogradsky column, a device for culturing a wide diversity of microorganisms, various illustrations on Shiro Alga Paper made of seaweed, herbarium, test results and prints ofscans performed in the laboratory, and a Peridotite stone. The exhibition thus features several artifacts and a series of illustrations and models that both engage with and resist to the exchange value of the diamond great brilliance. The carbon "reservoir" engages the viewer to examine the relationship between the organic and the mineral domains, while the illustrations raise questions about what lies in between them.

Paradoxes of a Diamond was developed with support of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) and Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa in Venice, Italy. The project, curated by Rachele D'Osualdo and Sabina Bassetto, was conducted in collaboration with Adriano Sfriso and Alessandro Buosi, from the Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics at the University Ca' Foscari in Venice; Paola Del Negro and Francesca Malfatti of the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics in Trieste.
Thanks to the University of Trieste for the scanning of SEM (scanningelctron microscope) and to Favini Srl, producer of the Shiro Alga paper, for their support.


Cecilia Jonsson (b. 1980 in Stockholm, Sweden) is an interdisciplinary artist whose research addresses the tensions between the mineral domain and living entities. Informed by methods used in the natural sciences, her works are often site-related, artistic interpretations of empirical material. Exploring the raw materials that create our experience of the world, from their origins deep in the ground, toextraction, transformation and global exploitation. Jonsson lives and works in Bergen, Norway.
Previous solo exhibitions include The Iron Ring, Atelier Nord, Oslo, Norway; The Seed of Metals, Cirkulationscentralen, Malmö, Sweden and Hypothesis of a geo-magnetic pull, Tag Team Studio, Bergen, Norway. She has been part of group exhibitions in venues such as Disseny Hub Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Kunsthall Grenland, Porsgrunn, Norway; Mauriziano, Reggio Emilia, Italy; V2_ Rotterdam, The Netherlands and Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde, Denmark. Jonsson received her MFA from the Bergen National Academy of the Arts in 2012 and completed the Nordic Sound Art master program the same year. In 2014 Jonsson earned Second Prize in VIDA 16.0 Art and Artificial Life International Awards for her project The Iron Ring.




Opening times


Museo di Storia Naturale
Santa Croce 1730
from 10 to 6 pm
closed on Monday
4>16 August
vedi il sito del museo