The factory was shot on Inishlacken, a depopulated island and Atlantic Alginates, an abandoned seaweed processing plant. It explores liminal space, setting up an uncanny composition that alternates between feeling familiar and unfamiliar, past and present day.
The piece itself is a 2 channel video piece depicting a girl harvesting seaweed and the abandoned machines for processing seaweed to obtain iodine and gelatin. It is as much about a psychological landscape as about a decaying industry, perhaps drawing parallels to Ireland’s current economic situation.
Many Irish people do not know that 200 years ago, in the 1700s and into the 1800s, tens of thousands of people were employed in harvesting and processing seaweed in Ireland, along with the western and northern seaboard. This was an early ‘green’ and sustainable industry, as every year tens of thousands of tons of seaweed were and still are thrown up on Irish shores. Most of this abundant natural harvest is now wasted and although the seaweed industry in Ireland is not dead, it is literally in extremis.
The Irish seaweed industry had three phases:
Phase 1: 1700 to 1820 – the alkali period
Phase 2: 1820 to 1940 – the iodine period
Phase 3: 1940 to today – the alginate period