A documentary film juxtaposing the dual nature of phosphorus. A substance used to nurture crops as well as to destroy lives.

Szczecin, Poland
LOCUMENT is a research studio that combines filmmaking with architecture and urban research. We use film as a tool to reveal invisible narratives.
Team members
Francisco Lobo
Romea Muryn
Field of work
Architecture, Urban planning, Multimedia, Film, Photography
Project category
Raising awareness
Project submitted

LOCUMENT was founded in 2015 by Francisco Lobo and Romea Muryń.
They use architecture and film as analytical, critical and subversive tools to emphasise contemporary issues and dissect their resolutions. They see the importance of observing rapidly changing social conditions through the influential factors of technology, economy, politics and urban environment.

Drawing from contemporary scenarios, LOCUMENT travels to unique locations to base their research topics, finding in them situations that, while site-specific, reflect problematics that resonate throughout the globe. Bringing out these underlying stories, their work focuses on recreating the complex storyline hidden under the surface of the visible spectrum. In a world moving exponentially faster, they see the importance of slowing down, researching, analysing, documenting and capturing a network of often contradictory points of view, thus revealing the narratives that influence our reality. Locument envisions the future and the past, and not the least, our time.

LOCUMENT’s movies have been screened internationally at exhibitions and film festivals such as – the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Italy; the 25th Biennial of Design Ljubljana, Slovenia; Doclisboa, Arquiteturas Film Festival, Portugal; Archstoyanie Festival Festival at the Nikola-Lenivets Art Park, Russia; In-Between Conditions Media Art Festival Tbilisi, Georgia; Commiserate Chicago Media Art Festival, US. They have collaborated with institutions such as MIT Architecture Department, INDA - Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Architecture, Nikola-Lenivets Classroom, OSSA - Polish Association of Architecture Students and are currently lecturing at the Architecture Department of the Royal College of Art in London.

The research aims to investigate through the creation of a documentary film the dynamics of phosphorus from its extraction and production until its application. It seeks to document, analyse, as well as re-propose, the routes of phosphorus, focusing on the dualities of the chemical element - from its usage in agricultural fertilisation to the manufacturing of ammunition. As David R. Mongomery and Anne Biklé stated: “As swords turned into ploughshares, the fundries of war found new markets in the war on soil.” An essential nutrient for plant growth, it plays a crucial role in agriculture and modern farming practices have a widespread dependance on phosphorus-based fertilisers. However, overuse and subsequent runoff is extremely harmful for ecosystems, human and non-human agents. Phosphorus also has a history of military usage due to its pyrophoric nature. Since the first world war, fertiliser production facilities operate with dual intentions - military and agricultural.

The research focuses on two opposing narratives: the overuse of phosphate fertilisers in the Oder river in Poland and the usage of phosphorus bombs in Ukraine and the subsequent ecocide.
Firstly we focus on fluidity as an inherent aspect of nature and the fact that human defined borders do not affect chemicals. As a consequence, the permeability of soils, methods of containment are local – while the contamination is global.
On the other extreme of the spectrum, phosphorus is used directly as a weapon of destruction. Making use of an incendiary reaction causing it to ignite at more than 800ºC. This type of ammunition causes indiscriminate damage on people, buildings and the environment and a great contribution to the current ecocide taking place in Ukraine.

The resulting short film will serve both as the recording of the state of affairs as well as means of revealing and analysing the duality of political narratives that define the relationship between humans and phosphorus.