adhesives, automobile components, balloons, balls, bridge bearings, carpet underlays, condoms, conveyor belts, diving suits, elastic bands, elastic thread, electrical insulation, erasers, flooring, foam mattresses, fenders, gaskets, gloves, gumboots, hoses, hot water bottles, inner tubes, mats, milking machine liners, printing rollers, roofing material, sandals, seals, sheeting, shoes, tank liners, toys, transmission belts, tyres, waders, windscreen wipers
In 1858 the first trans atlantic telegraph cable was completed. It connected Europe with North America and lay deep beneath the ocean. This cable, a precursor to deep sea cables that enable the World Wide Web, was coated in gutta-percha. This feat of engineering was possible only because of the qualities specific to the latex produced by the gutta-percha tree. By 1880 there were approximately 200,00 nautical miles of these undersea telegraph cables. This information network was instrumental in enabling Europe's colonial dominance over the rest of the globe.
The information network we know as the internet is not novel. It is not new. It is an ecosystem transfigured. In order for it to be brought into being, the tree-libraries from which it came were destroyed. Slaughter tapping is the name given to the process: cutting down mature trees for an immediate profit, rather than harvesting the latex from them in a sustainable way.
These gutta-percha trees, which were part of the ecosystem of the Malaysian Peninsula, were in such high demand and were harvested so rapidly that they became practically extinct in the wild. It was only through strict measures and efforts to develop plantations that the gutta-percha tree survived, although it is now almost forgotten. As the trees became too scarce, synthetic alternatives were developed in an attempt to replace them.
The forest is a library and latex is one form of the knowledge and narratives contained in it. Once this font of knowledge was tapped into, and the latex extracted, these narratives were brought into being. This library spans every genre. Crime— the newly developed, noiseless rubber soles that allowed Jack the Ripper to sneak up on his victims, then adopted by police detectives in an attempt to catch him. Erotica— since the 19th century there have been subcultures which fetishise latex clothing. Engineering — the pneumatic rubber tyres which were essential to the development of the bicycle and automobile as we now know them.
In one of its most ubiquitous forms, the eraser, rubber is used to rub out and remove. This can allow words to be rearranged on a page, old ideas to be erased and adapted into new ones. Or, as Roger Casement noted in his inquiry into the rubber industry in 1910, it can erase human lives. The indigenous peoples of the Amazon were enslaved by Europeans and forced into labour collecting and transporting latex. Many were worked to death. The companies running these operations were able to keep the inhumane conditions of their workers secret and these cruel practises continued into the early 20th century. Now, the majority of the world's natural rubber is produced by plantations in South East Asia. But the conditions of some workers in the industry have barely improved.
After what seems like many life-spans of reading and decoding the information in the chambers you are persuaded that all knowledge is contained within the tree, whether the cells contain every permutation of the character set or not is impossible to know. Given a the right language or cipher, you are convinced that the apparently meaningless code in fact could be every work of literature ever written and yet to be written, but also every image, sound and application.
29.11.17 - 23.12.17
Jesse Dyer is an emerging artist based in Melbourne. His work uses a combination of sculptural, photographic and written modes to investigate the relationship between the ecological and the archival. His web-based work ‘Infinite Library’, which explores the internet as an ecosystem, was developed as part of the SafARI 2016 program. His recent exhibitions include; ‘Perennial’ at CCP in 2017, ‘Great– Great– Grandplant’ at Seventh Gallery in 2016 and Awake at ACCA in 2015. In 2013 his essay ‘Une séance du cinéma’ was published in un Magazine.