by Viola Arduini & Dr. Anjali Mulchandani 

Video, mixed media, 2023

You flushed the toilet, now what? Modern technology has allowed us to literally flush away our waste and forget about it. But, our wastes contain valuable resources such as energy, nutrients, and metals. Instead of a linear economy where we mine for new resources from the Earth, can we instead consider a circular economy where our wastes are now considered as resources?

Our SciArt installation, Elemental, depicts how human generated waste can be broken down into the elements of life: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Inspired by the wastewater treatment process and the research in Dr. Anjali Mulchandani’s lab which looks at sustainable technologies to harvest valuable products like fuels and biochar from wastewater biomass, the work invites you to consider how these elements exist in cycles, of which the human bodies are only temporary hosts for. The installation is an invitation to step back and discover the many cycles of matter that make life possible. Can we mend a broken linear strand and make it a full circle?

The installation is composed of various parts: a video projection that brings together artist’s original footage of the wastewater treatment plant and found materials tracing micro and macro stories of chemical elements. A light installation depicts the colors of the atomic spectra of the elements of life – carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen – as atomic portraits, fingerprints of each. A suspended installation of specimens allows the visitor to connect with the presence of these elements in their daily experience.