The Alchemist and His Junks is a large-scale installation devoted to the living cycle of trash. The main character is both ancient and modern. His garb is based on Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) jade burial suits. Through a contemporary translation, he has become a sleek superhero, emblematic of industry. His logo, the Chinese character for gold, is made of lead. As with most materials, lead’s unique properties has both positive and negative aspects. We are grateful that it is available to protect us from X-rays and radiation from nuclear reactors, and provide us with instant electrical power through the use of lead batteries. At the same time we are shocked to find lead in toys, clothing, dishware and many other products that we “consume.” This is the inevitable result of a production system that has outpaced our ability to neutralize the waste that we generate and reduce the planned obsolescence of the products that the world produces.
In this work, recycled waste is transported from market, where products are consumed, to the manufacturer, where The Alchemist transforms the materials into products to be sent back to the consumer. The products return loaded with value but often containing traces of toxic materials. This installation does not place blame, other than to say that we all share in both the consequences as well benefits of the products of human ingenuity.