Ernest Hemingway, in his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, was not the first to say that “No man is an island”. The English poet John Donne had coined the expression in 1642. The essential meaning is: No human being is alone, as we all belong together – or should belong together – with other people. The expression, and the project No Island is an Island, created by Crystal Bennes, can be described as a little more tricky. Here, too, however, there are bells that toll, unfortunately for most of the human race. 

Background: Gipsön (Gypsum Island) is an artificial island created in 1978–90 in the sea off Landskrona. The 43-hectare island consists of gypsum, a residual product of the manufacture of fertilizers on the mainland. The island is contaminated by metals that leach into the Sound. 

No Island is an Island combines photographs on land and at sea, pictures from Landskrona’s archives, photographs taken by marine activists and divers who have worked in the area, and experimental pictures created with the use of infrared film. The project asks how humans handle toxic waste and presents various aspects of industrial agriculture. Although artificial manure helps grow crops that feed people all around the world, the industry contributes to soil degradation, groundwater pollution and resource depletion.  

Crystal Bennes is an artist, writer and researcher based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her work is grounded in long-term projects that comprise archival research, fieldwork, and experiments with materials. Her first photo book, Klara and the Bomb (about US research on nuclear weapons, female programmers, the invention of computers, and nuclear colonialism) was published last summer. It is hoped that No Island is an Island will likewise result in a photobook. 

Crystal Bennes