A picture of of a worker at the Vieille Montagne zinc processing plant in Balen, Belgium in 1978 forms the basis for this series of prints. Vieille Montagne is a French/Belgian company with a 200+ year history spanning the invention of zinc refining, the colonial era (as subsidiary of Union Minière de Haut Katanga), the mining of uranium in WW2 and the Cold War and the current rare minerals industry for digital devices.
The worker holds two cathodes used in the electrolysis process of zinc production. In his right hand he holds a ‘jumbo’ cathode and in his left the new ‘super jumbo’ indicating an optimistic prediction for the future of zinc production in Europe at the time. Consequently, this expanded capacity marked a major downturn for raw material production and a pivot to precious metal refining across the sector. In a real sense the cathodes represent the ‘past’ and ‘future’ of an industry.
In these images the cathodes provide windows to the locale of De Kempen in northeast Belgium. The set of 8, A1 adhesive backed posters (printed at Frans Masereel Centrum, Kasterlee, BE) couple the image of the worker from Balen with his cathodes, the images of the Kempen and a dime-store magic trick for predicting the number guessed by a friend.