Co-curator Matteo Silverio on ELEMENTS

For the 150th anniversary of the Periodic Table we decided to tell the story of the relationship that man has with chemical elements. In fact, in ELEMENTS, chemistry is used to assess the impact of man and his choices in everyday life.

The exhibition aims to illustrate how the chemical elements, even the most unthinkable, characterize our daily lives and how, without us noticing it, profoundly influence our lives and those around us, reflecting on our behaviour, understanding how our choices are able to alter entire ecosystems or cause strong social imbalances. This is why we have included "provocative" objects and images along the way, to push the viewer to ask questions to which, intentionally, the exhibition will not find an answer.

Chlorine, phosphorus, cadmium and cobalt are the elements that we have focused on for the promotion of the project. We have used ambiguity as a narrative expedient: a chemical element is not in itself "good" or "bad", it becomes one or the other depending on how we use it. So here's the guy who enjoys himself in the pool splashing around in a water purified of chlorine, but wearing a gas mask to remind us that it was precisely the chlorine that was used as the first chemical weapon in history.

The keys to the new electric SUV are "given" to us by the hand of a poor Congolese child who, instead of going to school, spends his days extracting cobalt, necessary in the manufacture of lithium batteries. Is it the fault of cobalt if children are exploited? Or chlorine if thousands of people died of suffocation during the First World War? Obviously not.


(Matteo wearing the gas mask exhibited at ELEMENTS)

Personally, I wanted to convey an extremely positive image of chemistry: chemistry is life, chemistry is matter. Everything is chemistry and my work, which often deals with experimental materials and ancient craftsmanship, has strong links with many of the elements mentioned in the exhibition. Chemistry is everything and it is fundamental for life on Earth. Too bad for man and his aptitude for self-destruction.

Matteo Silverio - Design Lead, Science Gallery Venice