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Mined, extracted, and woven, asbestos was the magic mineral. Towns became cities under its patronage, Persian kings entertained guests with its fireproof nature, and centuries of industry raked in the profits of its global application. We now live in the remains of this toxic dream, a dream that with the invention of electron microscopes revealed our material history as a disaster in the waiting. Yet the asbestos industry has far from left us, with extraction from the soil transforming to extraction from our walls. We are now faced with two options: to remove this material from our homes and start anew, or to build upon its residue. Removal is a dangerous and costly operation. So often we choose to live amongst it instead, choking out our walls with plastic tarping: the failed promises of modernism literally entombed all around us. Shot in the mining township of Asbestos, Quebec, home to the world’s largest asbestos mine that only stopped extraction in 2012, the film is a meditation on the entanglement of the fragility of bodies, the nonlinearity of progress, and the persistence of matter.
Graeme Arnfield, born in 1991 in the UK, is an artist living in London. He graduated with a Masters in Experimental Cinema at Kingston University. His work explores issues of communication, spectatorship, and history and has been screened in different film festivals around the world.
Sasha Litvintseva, born in 1989 in Russia, is an artist, filmmaker, researcher, and curator based in London. As graduate of the Slade School of Fine Art she is currently working on her PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she is a founding member of the Screen and Audiovisual Research Unit. She is also an independent curator of contemporary moving image and co-curator of the inaugural November Film Festival 2016. Her work has been presented extensively in solo and group exhibitions and film festivals worldwide.
Production: Sasha Litvintseva, Graeme Arnfield
Camera: Sasha Litvintseva
Running time: 20 min
Photo: © Sasha Litvintseva, Graeme Arnfield