In Children of Unquiet (2014) the artist Mikhail Karikis collaborated with youth to orchestrate a children’s ‘take-over’ of an abandoned workers’ village in Tuscany. The video is filmed in the Tuscan geothermal area of Valle del Diavolo, known for inspiring the hellish descriptions of Dante’s Inferno, for being the place where sustainable energy production was invented in the early 1900s and where the first geothermal power plant in the world was built. Until the 1980s, five thousand workers and their families lived in a cluster of iconic modernist industrial villages built around the power station and masterplanned by the influential architect Giovanni Michelucci. Following the introduction of technologies that replaced human labour in the power plant however, unemployment in the area increased and prospects for the young became limited resulting in the rapid depopulation and complete desertion of entire villages.
Children of Unquiet features forty-five children who are growing up in the region and near an industrial village which was abandoned by their parents after the near-complete automation of the geothermal power plant where they worked. In the video, youngsters between five and twelve years old seize the depopulated sites transforming the vaporous wasteland into an amphitheatre, a playground and a self-organised school at the same time. They sing and harmonise with the powerful subterranean rumbles and industrial noises resonating across the area; they congregate in the ruins to read political texts by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, and play among the abandoned homes.
In turn playful and meditative, spectacular and intimate, operatic and realist, Children of Unquiet resonates with alternative ways of thinking about the destiny of territories which are scarred by capitalist transformations. It reflects on post-industrial legacies and hints at possible or desired ecological futures conjured up by the poetic and activist imagination of the generation that is most affected by current socio-economic changes.