In the period after the Second World War chemicals companies in Basel built large disposal sites for the permanent storage of their chemical waste in the triangle where Germany, France and Switzerland meet. One of these sites is located in a wooded area in Bonfol (Canton Jura). In the period between 1961 and 1976 the Basel Chemical Industry (BCI) disposed of more than 114 000 tons of chemical waste in a former clay pit there. This permanent storage facility was closed down in 1976 and a small wood was planted on it, but following a first clean-up in the 1980s it was discovered that the site was not watertight. Under the pressure of public opinion and the Canton Jura BCI decided to carry out a complete clean-up of the waste disposal site. The trees were felled and a huge temporary shed was erected for the cleanup operation. Since 2010, using remote controlled cranes and machines, all the toxic material has been removed, analyzed, stabilized and then burned in special incineration plants. Following completion of the work in 2015 a wood will again be planted on the site.
Photographer Christian Schwager is documenting this remarkable piece of industrial history in a long-term study (2005–2017). From a total of 30 different standpoints he photographs the metamorphosis of a seemingly harmless area of wood into a complex that attempts to undo the disposal sins of years gone by. The exhibition, a “work in progress”, uses contact sheets to show the current state of the exhibition.