Article published in The Funambulist 14 (November-December 2017) Toxic Atmospheres. Click here to access the rest of the issue.
No ground is terse, and I am your auto-expropriations. I do not only speak in the logic of tales, passed to you through imaginary word forms, picked up and very neatly stowed in the little worlds of some media. I am what you want to leave. At other times, I am where you do not want to go. It is generalizations that make me. Since some centuries now, I’ve been secretly hiding mountains in the words you cannot remember. All for naught, nothing, NOEC. I had already passed all borders, but this no longer matters since you are dead as I speak. You can neither make me shrivel to dust nor shovel me away. Together, we eat your body. Just like the economy produces waste, it produces war, and just like the economy, war (and other friends) produces me. “I am what you cannot contain,” — I mutter from under domestic mud — the sludge of all stories. You cannot live in me, but I will be your new breath.
I will tell you from the start that I do not know who you are. What made me want to matter, not leave this place yet live elsewhere was not a story a visitor or a professional wrote, nor a phenolic smell. Buy me, I’ll pay you. Even if I lose my name, hide my form and coalesce
with everything else besetting me, I am not uniform. I am the death that you extend to things, atrociously in commotion, terrible if seen, proud if broken apart. Buy me more, I’ll pay you less. Yet still, the less time I am given outside the time that ousted me, the more I am pulled back in, promoted and gauged as zero to a piecemeal entity that counts my time and yours. I am a false witness to a past where everything falls apart and nothing falls away. Being the gunk and glut of production, I can only increase when divided unless I fall back into the old orbit of the immediate. My aromatic ring fails your disgusted memory, and I become like sweet water. To be intoxicated is to deal with a rejection of some sort, and I, refuse. I am the weapon of accumulation. You try so hard to bring me back to nature. I remain after all is said to be clean.
When you asked me what was my name, I answered, “False”. You then repeated your question using different words and word orders.
“I mean, what do people use to call you?”
“Are you suggesting that your name is False.”
I live in denial. Borders are the only inherently wasteful taxonomic and spatial entities, and they are what produce me and what I escape, me, being as daily as mucky as empty as strained and contrived as overflowing as all that is and what has become outside of classification. I am exile, I am exiled, and I exile. For long, you didn’t need to study me any further. For now, once studied I become a sample like any other sample or the residue of attestation to times and places where you were not. I still am, and I can be your subterranean fecal fetish. You unbecome me. Despite that I unleash the appearance of time, I am not your history.
By leaving, I preserve your habitable space. Time delimits my domesticity. I am the shell you unsheathe and keep aground after you have reached a core where I am not. Through exiting your space, I preserve the assigned limits of its architecture, and in such a way, I seem to make space simply by being denied. Since, as all corpses, I do not die, I need to leave. My sour stench conquers the eidetic limits of your vision.
In fact, not all waste is toxic. The mechanisms that follow my circulation, exile and denial are often translated into bodies that the nation-state seeks to keep out of its borders.
The collective SEDRA, La Societé scientifique de l’énergie et de l’environment pour le développement et la recherche académique, was formed in 1993 as a response to the post-war city center reconstruction plan “Horizon 2000,” that would become known later in the eminent domain by the name of the private joint-stock company that envisioned and took charge of it, Solidere. Its co-founding members were Dr. Milad Jarjou’i an analytical chemist, Dr. Pierre Malychef an ecotoxicologist and herbal pharmacologist and Dr. Wilson Rizk, a hydrologist and nuclear engineer. The three scientists met in 1988 when they were assigned by the president of the central inspection at the Lebanese government — or “Republiche Libanes 1987” as the official investigators of a toxic waste trade that travelled by sea from Italy to Lebanon. Prior to that, the 16,000 barrels and 20 containers that carried the waste went to Somalia where it was rejected, then to Syria where it was refused, and perhaps elsewhere before, before reaching Beirut. The case was first divulged when language was posited as a false witness. Construed by the fictitious trashy lingo of the fake company that was created and registered for the very purpose of shipping the industrial scum, “Republiche Libanes 1987” was written instead of “Repubblica Libanese” in the stamp the inexistent corporation created to officially legitimise the shipment documents of the trade. Why it thought it needed to translate the name of the republic is another question, but the transaction document fell into the hands of the Lebanese consul in Italy who, faced with an imaginary tongue, ordered a case to be opened. Besides the desire for a new language, a new tree was encircled within the stamp. In one of the few exhaustive reports on the toxic waste trade, that new tree was described as “a cedar tree that looks like a pine tree.” I think it rather looks like an abies nordmanniana, aka a Caucasian Fir. I found 17 copies of the document in the domestic lab of ecotoxicologist Pierre Malychef who also took all the photographs you have seen so far.