Allegory of the Toxic Barrels


The image below shows so many toxic barrels that it seems as if the photographer had to struggle to fit them all in the frame. Sludge is spilling out of each to form rivers of toxic fluids. The barrels in the background are slightly more ordered than those in the foreground. That is as the image comes closer to the viewer, any order breaks down. The breakdown is caused in part by the two or three human figures in the foreground. At first it is hard to distinguish these figures form the mess of waste that surrounds them. They are wearing suits to protect themselves from the chemicals that fill the barrels. The figure on the right seems to be smashing the barrels with a bat. The progression to chaos and the indistinct line dividing humans from garbage suggests this image is more than just another picture of garbage.

The image above is an allegory for human destruction of the natural world that has lead to the impending environmental crisis.  The rows and rows of bare contained and seemingly uncontainable toxic liquid stands for disposal methods in general. The pressure to contain garbage in landfill and dumps is too great.  The desire for order and security results in the rows and rows of stacked barrels, and then results in humans beating back the threat with bats. That is the same impulse to order created the garbage to being with.

The extent to which the garbage is about to overwhelm the human figures at the foreground, is a powerful metaphor for the precarious state of human/nonhuman relations. Just as the humans effort to beat back the toxic barrel is as futile as trying to stem the tide of natural desecration with recycling campaigns.


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