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There is something fascinating about the semi-liquid, plasma-like quality of asphalt. Maybe it is the lure

There is something fascinating about the semi-liquid, plasma-like quality of asphalt. Maybe it is the lure of an impossible image, inaccessible either through the senses or the intellect: the idea of liquid stone. Petroleum, from which asphalt deriv e, has its etymological Latin root in petra = rock + oleum = oil: rock’s oil. Caught in permanent flux between two states of matter (solid and liquid) asphalt’s unstable condition brings to mind not just geological processes like sedimentation and petrification , but also alchemical ones like distillation and liquefaction. As a naturally occurring substance intervened by human agency (tekne) its hybrid constitution avoids being easily classified as natural or artificial matter. One among many hybrid conceptions of modernity, asphalt-concrete is simultaneously a product of nature and an effect of culture –its essence is dialectical, so to say.

Writing about the ominous evocations of concrete in his text Hormigon Crudo , Basque artist Asier

Writing about the ominous evocations of concrete in his text Hormigon Crudo, Basque artist Asier Mendizabal conjures the image of a heavy, semantic mud attached to its material surface –a certain layer of guilt. A similar image comes to mind when considering asphalt concrete. Asphalt-concrete uses bitumen instead of cement as its bonding material. Bitumen is a naturally occ urring semi-solid form of petroleum that may be found in natural deposits or refined into a petro-derivate product. Unlike cement, another ductile composite material that certainly evokes western teleological notions of developmental growth and progress, asphalt directly depends on the systematic extraction of fossil fuels. It has been used as a construction and sealing material from Sumerian to ancient Greek times, way before the industrial revolution for example took place; an event some consider a landma rk to define the beginning of an actual geological era known as the Anthropocene. A term coined by the Nobel Prize in chemistry Paul Crutzen to replace the Holocene as the current era in Earth's geological history, due to the significant global impact that human activities have had on terrestrial ecosystems.

To think through mineral and geological metaphors can be seen as yet another attempt to instrumentalize

To think through mineral and geological metaphors can be seen as yet another attempt to instrumentalize nature. However, the metaphorical impulse to blur the line between mind and matter is constantly frustrated by the indifference of the latter. In other words: despite any naïve efforts to ‘humanize’ matter, to make it sensible through poetic wishful thinking, no thoughts can be definitely forced into it. It is stone-dead. Or is it?

To consider matter for its poetic plasticity and metaphorical aptness is to somehow semanticize it –to

To consider matter for its poetic plasticity and metaphorical aptness is to somehow semanticize it –to employ it as a vessel to convey meaning. Against this utilitarian aspect of metaphors, art can be thought of as a space where perception is not unidirectional and subject- centred, but a field of mutual influence between subjects and objects. Or in the words of Edouard Glissant, art can be the locus of a poetics of relation; “in Relation every subject is an object and every object a subject”.