Karen Russo

Lives and works in London, England.

Karen Russo is known for her work in drawing, video, installation and writing.

“Economy of Excess” is comprised of footage of the sewage pipes of Essex, shot by a small robot camera that is normally used to locate blockages. The film creates an entrancing movement into the ever-expanding circles of the sewer system’s pipes, which mutates into a hypnotizing voyage of impressionistic colour and light. Humble in its origins yet dazzling in its effects, this video epitomizes the way in which the work continually straddles the line between the sublime and the mundane.

An Economy of Excess –

Bataille sees the sun as the most sublime image for a violent and amazing waste of energy. In the framework of an utterly parodic world, in which everything we see is a parody of everything else, what better image to choose than the sun’s subterranean doppelganger? The opposite of the sun, an intricate system of trash, mud and waste in place of radiation, Dr. Jekyll’s Mr. Hyde – the sewer.

In Paris each house is connected to the sewage system through an underground corridor. The length of Paris’ sewage system today is over two thousand kilometres, and it spreads out in various and intersecting layers and strata, parallel to the city above it. In a certain sense it is another Paris, black and rank, a cynical copy of a parallel world of street and house on the surface.
Sewage’s excess is at once torture and happiness – a system into which “waste”, leftovers and surplus energy, are drained – it sometimes also exports to the surface that which has already been digested, in a sort of “collective vomiting”. Its material and spiritual economy is one of surplus, exaggeration, waste and incorrigible lavishness, of overflow. Overflowing sewage floods the streets with a horrible smell, a terrible reminder of all that transpires under the surface- A parody of an abundance of colour over-stimulating the senses. The addiction to this excess is damaging. The overflow of sewage is the penetration of the dirty into the clean, an invasive and violent, physical and disgusting penetration. An unnatural penetration against the natural flow of materials meant for expulsion. This regression inspires our disgust. Unlike the sight of thousand-year-old bog bodies appearing in the swamps as remnants of distant eras, this flooding is a return of a recent past, a known past that we know in our own lives.

(VTO Press Release, London, 2005)