Benera and Estefan
The Last Particles, 2018
mixed-media installation (HD video with stereo sound, 8 min. 45 sec., photography, sand, aluminium structure, microscope, lab cabinet, etc.),
variable dimensions.

The Last Particles reveals material traces – today hardly discernible with the naked eye – of a major turning point in the history of the twentieth century: the Second World War D-Day landings. The artistic research, presented in a laboratory situation that was especially developed for this project, is focused on the ‘magnetic sand’ from Omaha Beach in Normandy, which contains a high proportion of heavy minerals and shrapnel particles from bombs. The metallic particles slowly erode among the beach sand but will survive for millennia as it transforms from the detritus of military technology to the geological stratum.

The video shows the individual metallic particles emerging from the sand and becoming ‘actors’ moving according to a predefined choreographic score. Terms such as ‘viral force’, ‘emotional velocity’, ‘coercive dissolution’, ‘disoriented agency’, ‘contagion’, and ‘exhaustion’ are inspired by swarm intelligence and crowd psychology. It reflects on forms of assembly, violence, and power. In the video, the minute particles gather into a collective and gradually become a kind of living organism.

The project centers on the question of whether a landscape – a ‘micro-ruin’ and a significant archaeological site of violent conflict – bears within it the potential to imagine a new habitat. The animated particles could be elements of a world emerging from ruins.

Alice Wilke (excerpt from the catalog of the exhibition Territories of Waste, Museum Tinguely, Basel, 2022)

Sound: Simina Oprescu
Photo credits: Fanny Trichet
Courtesy by Frac des Pays de la Loire

According to The Sedimentary Record, the sand of Normandy beaches conceals 4% debris of bombs and metal fragments (“magnetic sand”) from the D-Day landings - the battle that helped end the Second World War and redrew the map of Europe. The “magnetic sand”, along with other examples, is forming the layer of the Debrisphere, which stands for a type of artificial terrain, concealed by nature.

Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, October 2018 

 Scanning electron image of shrapnel grains and       
  an iron bread. Several grains show laminated structure.
Earle F. Mc Bride & M. Dane Picard:                
“Shrapnel in Omaha Beach Sand”,                
The Sedimentary Record, Sept. 2011.