Trafico-de-la-Tierra-Square

2017 — Exhibition ‘El Tráfico de la Tierra (Trafficking the Earth), MAC Parque Forestal, Santiago, Chile

Museo Arte Contemporáneo (MAC), Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile Exhibition Trafficking the Earth Ignacio, Acosta, Louise Purbrick, Xavier Ribas 7 September-12 November 2017 Trafico-de-la-Tierra-main Installation View Capitalism changes everything. It has altered our relationship to the Earth. It has ripped lands apart, torn out their materials and hauled them over the surface of the world as the traffic between nations and within markets. Extraction and export is the business of capital. All forms of exchange are acts of appropriation but mining removes material that can never be replaced; taken, transformed and trafficked with no intent to repay. Trafficking the Earth is a collaboration between photographers Xavier Ribas, Ignacio Acosta and an art historian, Louise Purbrick. Their collective research has documented the movement of mineral wealth of Chile into global markets and European landscapes. Nitrate and copper is their focus. The transformation of these natural resources into industrial materials draw desert and city, slag heap and country house, ruin and regeneration, landscape and archive, Chile and Britain, into the same circuit of capital. Over the last five years Acosta, Purbrick and Ribas have encountered other artists, photographers, curators, translators and activists and worked alongside them sharing a concern with politics of documenting the inequalities of extractive industries. — Trafficking the Earth is a collection of documents that reproduces historical constellations of appropriation and accumulation, depletion and displacement, violence and its disguise, begun by mining nitrate and copper. Our work is documentation. Photography is our focus but it is only one type of document in historical and contemporary mining landscapes. A photograph is a trace, an imprint of time and space, but as Walter Benjamin wrote, ‘to live is to leave traces’ and the documents of nitrate and copper are found in many places, preserved and obscured. The Atacama Desert, the Pacific ports of Iquique and Pisagua, mining town of Chuquicamata, the slag heaps of Coquimbo, the City of London, the docks of Liverpool, the waterfront of Swansea, First World War munitions factories and battlefields, English country estates and Oxford Colleges may appear as separate geographies yet they are entangled together in the transport and transformations of nitrate and copper. Capital-Room Installation View The rupture of mining the Earth and trafficking in the Earth’s substance sets in motion material transformation upon material transformation as the operations of industrialisation and the manipulations of commoditisation use up both land and labour: ore into metal, rock into chemical, chemical into commodity, metal into exchange, natural substance into industrial form, and finally into the arbitrary abstractions of the global market: only a value, merely a share price. Once nitrate is dug into soil to feed cattle fodder or poured into the explosive mixtures that make dynamite, once copper disappears into cables encased in plastic and is embedded within the intricate internal wiring of lap tops and smart phones, only their market value appears to remain: they are capital; they have become capitalised forms, invisible as anything else. But nothing ever really disappears. Every act of appropriation is found in the land: in ruins and residue. Ecological contamination is historical evidence. A trace. The entangled geographies of desert, port and city are also entwined histories. Trafficking the Earth traverses past and present, one folds into the other in constant transformation. — Xavier Ribas’ photography is a circumnavigation a nineteenth century photographic album, Oficina Alianza and the Port of Iquique 1899, a document of the extraction and export of nitrate from the Atacama Desert that was sent to the City of London offices of Antony Gibbs and Sons. Ribas’ work considers the dynamic effects of nitrate by returning to sites of explosion wherein fragments of history of the violence of exploitation may be seen. The mobilities of mined materials, once extracted from the Earth and compelled through corporate economies, is the subject of Ignacio Acosta’s practice. His photography is an exploration of the global political ecology of copper mining that makes visible the buried connections between environmental contamination and capital accumulation. Louise Purbrick’s writing reflects upon materiality itself; she tries to capture the forms mining in words and thereby recognise the substance and complexity of the documents of capital. Traces of Nitrate. Mining History and Photography Between Chile and Britain, is a research project developed by the authors at the University of Brighton, with the financial support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Antofagasta_01 Installation View Link to Museo de Arte Contemporáneo MAC, Santiago
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About the Author

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Im a Chilean born, London based visual artist and researcher. My practice explores and reflects on the geo-political power dynamics in mineral industries, geographies and historical narratives. My interconnected research projects involve extensive historical research, fieldwork, the collection of archival materials, new photographic documentation with large format cameras and diverse forms of mapping. My work develops using site-specific working methodologies.