Maarten Vanden Eynde

Cornutopia

2019
Bakelite sheets.
115 x 40 x 130 cm

Cornutopia is an amalgamate of cornucopia (the horn of plenty) and utopia. The initial promise of plastic being the solution for material scarcity, turned from a salvation into an expanding nightmare. Plastic pollution became one of the most pressing global problems, of which the true depth and scope we are learning as we proceed forward. The work consists of a series of 15 Bakelite sheets, the first artificial plastic, invented in 1907 by the Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland. The need for an alternative to ivory, that was widely used as electrical insulator, but also to make door- and knife handles, billiard balls, domino tiles and piano keys, became critical, as the supply, coming mainly from the Congo Free State and later the Belgian Congo, was running low. The horn of plenty was getting empty. Bakelite was the future. Not only did it deliver an alternative for ivory, it also facilitated the industrial revolution, as the first mass malleable matter. Commodities such as telephones, radio’s, kitchenware, jewellery, toys and even firearms came rolling off the assembly line. The horn of plenty puked plastic and mass consumerism was born. Cornutopia creates an outline of an elephant tusk by cutting it in slices and framing the void as it were, making a mould of what once was.