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Ashtrade is an ongoing project in collaboration with Studio Aine (EST).

Sourced from the residue of oil shale mining in northeast Estonia, the installation comprises material and photographic elements derived from a site where 230 million tonnes of ash form an uncanny mountain range 800 hectares in size. Here hills rise to compensate for the loss of extracted sedimentary rock, oil shale, from which electricity is produced.

As a striking contrast to this vast and artificial sublime shaped by large-scale industrial processes, two human hands are seen carefully crafting ash into precious beads. The worth of these unusual jewels of Earth resides in the meditative attention with which they have been made, each one different from the next.Upon closer investigation the pearls, reminiscent of prayer beads, reveal themselves as depositories of future materials. Like kernels, they await to be unlocked in an alternate future that may be our own. 

Studio Aine has researched the ways in which the hills of residue, previously considered hazardous, are being reconsidered in view of novel, carbon neutral technologies. Namely, the latter enable the extraction of minerals and metals from the ash. In light of global resource scarcity, these mountains may now be envisioned as future currency, due to be traded fraction by fraction, bead by bead, between those industries that are in need of critical raw materials. The project highlights the shifting notion of what constitutes waste as opposed to value, whilst also foregrounding those who steward these desolate, wounded landscapes.

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Year: 2021



Concept and development:

Annika Kaldoja, Kärt Ojavee, Marie Vihmar

Photos: Anu Vahtra

Experiments with ceramics in collaboration with: Jaan August Viirand

Experiments with glass in collaboration with: Andra Jõgis 

Graphic design: Maria Muuk

Supported by Eesti Kultuurkapital

Thank you Estonian Academy of Arts, Ragn Sells AS, Eesti Energia, Hanna Laura Kaljo, Laur Kaunissaare, Maret Sarapu, Lauri Laanemäe & Igor

The project in an ongoing research that is partly presented during London Design Festival 2021 at Tactile Baltics  exhibition (18.09 - 26.09.2021)

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