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Archaeology of Sacrifice (2020)

Through the discovery of a Celtic sacrificial site at Mormont Hill – a limestone and marl quarry located in the Swiss canton of Vaud – the two-channel video installation with surround sound design Archaeology of Sacrifice unveils how the notion of sacrifice has transitioned from ancient sacred rituals to its contemporary meaning within extractive capitalism. Evidence suggests the Celts living there during the second century BCE were experiencing a moment of crisis, perhaps linked to Germanic invasion. Thus, they buried offerings in the form of several human and animal bodies, tools and bronze vessels to the Earth in exchange for guidance through the catastrophe.

Today, sacrifice is mediated by market exchange –the well-being of humans, nonhumans and the environment has been betrayed in favour of economic growth. Sacrifice zones are proliferating in areas deemed most extractable, most exploitable – usually regions under pressure from neoliberal policies. Here, humanity and nature are believed to be expendable and replaceable.

Mormont Hill’s excavated objects help archaeologists fiction a past, though almost certainly, the Celts did not intend for these remains to be uncovered. In archaeology, formulating past beliefs involves a delicate navigation between fiction and reality in which the lines are always blurred; the reconstruction will always be a representation. The project builds on this grey area in our own moment of current crisis, pushing for a more earthly understanding of prospective cohabitation whilst offering a reflective space for an unknown future.

In a continuous interplay between fact, fiction and scale, meditative landscapes of typically inaccessible areas are juxtaposed with archival footage, drone views, investigative close-ups and photogrammetry-based 3D modelling. Whilst acknowledging the Anthropocene is built on an erasure of its racial origins, Archaeology of Sacrifice reflects on the precariousness of our planet and its unsolicited submission to humanity.

Text by Ellen Lapper and Ignacio Acosta

Archaeology of Sacrifice was created in collaboration with film editor Lara Garcia Reyne, artists Valle Medina and Benjamin Reynolds (Pa.LaC.E), writer Carlos Fonseca, sound designer and composer Udit Duseja, and colourist Paul Wills. The film includes archival footage from the documentary Crépuscule des Celtes (2007) by Stéphane Goël, Climage. It was produced as result of the Scholarship 2020 of the ZF Kunststiftung, Friedrichshafen, Germany, filmed during Principal Residency Program, La Becque Résidence d’artistes, La-Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland and with the collaboration of the Musée cantonal d'archéologie et d'histoire/Lausanne, Switzerland. It is presented first by ZF Art Foundation at the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen, 18.9.–6.12.2020

Link to ZF Art Foundation
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Link to panel discussion
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Burlington Contemporary: Building a world after its end by Anna Staab
Artishock: Ignacio Acosta's Archaeology of Sacrifice by Ellen Lapper

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Mining Monument (2019)

Borders, fences and walls are constructions that mediate the relationship between humans and the natural environment. They are boundary markers that give form to rationalising logics, to appropriation and exploitation; demarcation is the action that transforms the landscape into a territory. Survey monuments of concrete and stones mark the sites of mining exploration and exploitation concessions at Parque Andino Juncal, located in the Valparaíso Region of Chile, where the Aconcagua River is born. These monoliths have transformed a protected area into a territory in dispute, torn between conservation and exploitation, wild nature and extractivism.

Pedimento Minero [Mining Monument] (2019) is a site-specific installation composed of a video piece, two sculptural objects and a table display of documents and photographs.

In the video piece Bitacora Mineros, a vertical and divided territory symbolises the legal framework imposed in Chile through the Codigo Minero (Mining Code), a law written during the dictatorship that separates land ownership from the mineral resources below ground level. The flora and fauna of Juncal, which has adapted to survive the extreme conditions of the high Andes, is now at threat from the exploitation of copper and gold deposits. The Juncal Mountain, which to our eyes appears an integral part of the scenery, is re-framed by the socioeconomic system as a container of exploitable resources, separate and unconnected to the surrounding ecosystem. Seen through the watchful eye of a drone, the artist builds a tale of vertical views, which is brought together with entries collected from the logbooks Avistamientos de Flora y Fauna and Bitacora Mineros, in which the park rangers recorded all movements of both animals and miners over January and February of 2019 on this protected portion of the mountain.

Projecto Caliente presents a collection of archival materials put together in collaboration with activist Tomás Dinges. The display is composed of images and documents that evidence the threat of mining exploitation, revealing the violent division of the expanse of the mountain range.

One Mining Monument complete the installation, replicating to scale the stone markers set up in Juncal in January 2019.

Erected in the high mountains these survey monuments modify nature, marking the point of submission of a landscape to its eventual exploitation. In the museum each is, instead, a ritual body that seeks to restore the connection between the above and below of ground level.

Produced in collaboration with Parque Andino Juncal for the Bienal de Artes Mediales de Santiago 2019: The limits of the Earth. Co-curated by Catalina Valdes and Jean-Paul Felley, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MAC) Parque Forestal, Santiago, Chile.

Original text in Spanish by Catalina Valdez.

Co-produced by Arts Catalyst, Bienal de Artes Mediales de Santiago y Museo de la Solidaridad de Salvador Allende (MSSA).

Supported by Arts Council England and the British Council.

Link to The Limits of the Earth, Bienal de Artes Mediales de Santiago
View The Limits of the Earth instalation video
Download Projecto Caliente
Download Mining Lookbook and other things

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Tales from the Crust (2019)

Building on ongoing research into extractive activities in Chile and Swedish Sábme, Tales from the Crust presents existing and new work, comprising documents, films, photographs, maps and objects. The programme hones in on ways in which local and transnational acts of resistance are making use of technologies (such as drones) in order to monitor the impacts of extractive industries and develop micropolitical strategies.

The exhibition is accompanied by Resistance Labs, a series of discursive events, workshops and broadcasts that bring to the fore existing forms of solidarity between various anti-mining movements, and address the role that counter-actions can play on a planetary scale.

Through an in-depth visual and spatial exploration, the works presented in the exhibition are articulated as a series of overlapping case studies of extractive violence. These include Parque Andino Juncal, an Andean conservation park currently fighting against mining exploration; and Caimanes, an agricultural town heavily affected by water contamination and scarcity by Latin America’s largest toxic dam El Mauro from Los Pelambres copper mine.

In the film installation Litte ja Goabddá (Drones and Drums) Ignacio Acosta explores how the Sami indigenous communities are using drones as a way of resisting the mining exploration at Gállak in Jåhkåmåkke (Jokkmokk) in northern Sweden through an indigenous lens. Based on research visits and close collaboration with activists and Sami families living and working in the area threatened by the mines, the project explores the link between drums and drones as navigation and communication tools.

This multifaceted spatial narrative is populated by the overlapping voices of activists, indigenous people and archaeo-astronomers – bringing together a constellation of stances rooted in the distant to recent and present geographies of extraction, exploitation and trauma. Here, filmed interviews, close-ups of resilient landscapes and cartographies of global power expose forms of human and non-human resistance.

As part of the exhibition, Nexus, an environmental project exploring global challenges connected to water, food and energy based at Imperial College, have contributed a series of digital resources mapping sites of extraction.

Tales from the Crust forms part of Extractable Matters Arts Catalyst’s new thematic strand exploring extractive capitalism and the politics that underlie its spatial infrastructure and logistics. Starting with an exhibition in autumn 2019 by artist Ignacio Acosta the programme reflects on ways in which capitalism extracts and exploits both material and immaterial resources, such as minerals, labour, data, affects, cultures and resistance. Through exhibitions, artist residencies and public programmes, over six months Extractable Matters provides a polyfunctional context for discussions inquiring how extractive infrastructures – as well as borders, conflicts and trades attached to them – impose uneven maps of power.

The works presented in Tales from the Crust have emerged from Traces of Nitrate, a research project developed in collaboration with Art and Design historian Louise Purbrick and photographer Xavier Ribas, based at the University of Brighton and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC); and Drone Vision, a research project based at the Hasselblad Foundation / Valand Academy, Gothenburg University led by Dr Sarah Tuck.

Tales from the Crust is supported by funding from Arts Council England, Pluriversal Radio and the CREAM (University of Westminster)

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Link to Tales from the Crust
Link to Assembly Extractable Matters
Artist talk: Extractive Violence Between Europe and Latin America, Ignacio Acosta in conversation with Elena Solis and Godofredo Pereira

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List of works

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Art Agenda: Ignacio Acosta’s Tales from the Crust by Tom Jeffreys
Burlinton Contemporaries: Ignacio Acosta’s Tales from the Crust by Diego Chocano
We make money not art: Tales from the Crust Portraits of extractive violence and resistance

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Copper Geographies

Copper is a miraculous and paradoxical metal that is characterized by high electrical and thermal conductivity. It is hidden in plastic, carried as loose change and found behind walls, inside air conditioners, cars, computers, electronics, ‘green energy’ generators, airplanes, mobile phones: copper is everywhere but rarely seen. Copper plays a key role in communication and information technologies; yet little attention has been paid to resource scarcity, over consumption and environmental disruption caused by the extractive industries.

'Copper Geographies' explores the global flow of mined copper. It presents a series of fieldwork explorations of geographically disparate landscapes historically connected by copper. It maps sites of transformation along the production network and commodity chain, documenting the mutation and transformation of copper from raw material to capital; through ore, smelted commodity, stock market exchanged value, assembled material and waste. It discloses the uneven spatial conditions in which the material circulates by connecting the ecologies of resource exploitation in the Atacama Desert with the global centres of consumption and trade in Britain, and by making visible its return, hidden in manufactured goods, to the territories it originated from.

'Copper Geographies' is composed of eight series, which are organised along three axes: 'Global mobility of copper'; 'Post-industrial landscapes'; and 'Contemporary mining industry and its relation to London'. The project presents documentary research in the form of maps, photographs and analytical texts and offers a critical spatial imaginary for re-thinking the geographies of copper.

'Copper Geographies' is part of 'Traces of Nitrate: Mining history and photography between Britain and Chile', a research project developed in collaboration with Art and Design historian Louise Purbrick, photographer Xavier Ribas, based at the University of Brighton and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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Litte ja Goabddá [Drones and Drums] (2016–2018)

Litte ja Goabddá [Drones and Drums] (2018) is a video installation with surround sound that explores the use of drone technologies as a tool of minority indigenous resistance to the proposed Gállak mining operations in Jåhkåmåhkke [Jokkmokk], Norrbotten County, Sweden. It was developed in close collaboration with activists and Sámi families living and working in the area, combining extensive fieldwork and visual documentation.

The Sámi are an indigenous minority whose traditional ancestral land of Sápmi crosses the modern nation states of Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia. The systematic subdivision, expropriation and industrialisation of Sápmi has resulted in the dispossession of historical indigenous land rights, and in the fragmentation of Sámi cultural belonging and identities.

Sámi reindeer herders are increasingly dependent on the fossil fuel industries to supplement the economy of reindeer herding. Large areas of reindeer grazing land in Sápmi have been lost to hydropower development, and land-based reindeer migration is now primarily conducted by lorry transportation. With the increase in global temperatures the weather dynamics of the arctic region have radically changed, with rain replacing snow in the winter months. This forms a layer of ice above the ground that prevents the natural grazing of the reindeer, putting further economic pressure on the local Sámi herders by forcing them to purchase pellet feed.

Gállak North is one of the largest unexploited iron ore deposits in Europe. The UK-based Beowulf Mining PLC, through its Swedish subsidiary Jokkmokk Iron Mines AB, has submitted an application for a twenty-five-year exploitation concession to establish a mine at the site. Their application is currently under review by the Swedish Government. If a mining permit were granted it would have a massive impact on the area’s fragile ecology, and would cause further disruption to the reindeer migration paths. If the mine goes ahead, Sámi cultural life in the area would experience irreversible decline and with it the loss of valuable indigenous knowledge.

Drone technologies have, for the most part, been associated with ideas of vertical control, surveillance and warfare, and have been perceived as a technology that extends corporate and military power. At the same time, because of the drone’s capacity to generate accurate image-based mapping and analytics, drones are also used by the mining industry to increase efficiency and profitability. By artistically appropriating this technology, I attempt to offer new ways of seeing how the geographies of ecological social movements are connected across time and place.

In Litte ja Goabddá, my interest was in understanding how the drone view and the drum make manifest and reconcile the technological and the spiritual in the counter-protest against a settler colonialism of deforestation and extractive industries.

During several research trips, I met with activists and Sámi families living and working in the area threatened by mining activities. From the beginning of the project, I became interested in finding ways to collaborate with these communities. My initial idea was to bring drones to Gállak so as to monitor Beowulf Mining. On my first visit, I met with the activists Mose Agestam and Henrik Blind who were already using drones as a tool to make visible from above what is happening at ground level. Communicating across social media platforms, their drone films make evident the disruption of Sápmi land, mapping not only its scale but also the commodification and financialisation of the land as private property and source of capital.

Litte ja Goabddá was commissioned for the Drone Vision: Warfare, Surveillance, Protest project and was first exhibited at the Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg (May-Sept 2018), then at the Ájtte Museum, Jåhkåmåhkke, Sweden (March-May 2019). The video, series of photographs and interviews produced during the research process have been donated to the Ájtte Museum archive in an effort to return the work back to the community it originates from. During 2019 it was further shown at the Zeppelin Museum, Friedrichshafen, Germany, on the occasion of the Game of Drones exhibition (Jun-Nov 2019), then at Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago, Chile (Aug 2019-Feb 2020) in a solo exhibition that activated discussion with local Indigenous Mapuche representative Pascual Levi Curriao, at Tales from the Crusts, a solo exhibition at Arts Catalysts, London (Sep-Nov 2019) that was accompanied by Assembly: Extractable Matters, a two-day gathering at the University of Westminster that collectively explored the politics of extraction across the globe which brought together artists, academics, activists and human rights experts, and Västerbottens Museum, Umeå, Sweden as part of the Människans natur group exhibition (Feb-June 2020). It has been presented at several international conferences and symposia, including the Native American Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) Conference held at The University of Waikato in New Zealand/Athorea in June 2019 alongside a new video piece titled Forest Fires, that was developed in collaboration with Liz-Marie Nilsen and supported by Indigenous Climate Change Studies, a research project based at Uppsala University, led by Dr May-Britt Öhman and funded by Formas.

Link to Drone Vision, Hasselblad Foundation
Link to Human Nature, Västerbottens Museum
Link to Drones y Tambores, Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende
Link to Game of Drones: Of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafer

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The Cliff’s Gaze

'Archipiélago Juan Fernandez', nineteenth century oil paining, unknown artist

"Now as the waves were not so high as at first, being near land I held my hold till the wave abated, and then fetched another run, which brought me so near the shore, that the next wave, though it went over me, yet did not so swallow me up as to carry me away; and the next run I tool I got to the mainland, where, to my great comfort, I clambered up the cliffs of the shore and sat me down upon the grass, free from danger, and quite out of the reach of the water". Daniel Defoe

The Cliff’s Gaze departs from a nineteenth century painting by an unknown artist, which hung in my great-grand father’s desk in Valparaiso, Chile. The painting depicts a romantic view of a cliff in Robinson Crusoe, an island that belongs to Archipelago Juan Fernandez, 670km west of San Antonio, Chile in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago was formed by ancient lava built though seismic episodes, with steep, rugged mountain ranges with deep peaks and practically no flat areas. The islands are sixty-one times richer in endemic plant species per square kilometer and thirteen times greater in endemic bird richness than the Galápagos. However, is one of most ecologically vulnerable ecosystems in the world due to invasive species that are destroying native plant and animal populations.

William Defoe 'The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived eight and twenty years alone in an uninhabited island, on the coast of America, near the mouth of the great river Oroonoque; having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely delivered by Pirates' London, Printed for J. F. and C. Rivington, 1791

The Cliff’s Gaze draws upon a series of historical narratives witnessed from and beyond the cliff: The adventures of scot sailor Alexander Selkirk who was marooned between 1704-1709; the fictional character of Crusoe and his handsome aboriginal subordinate Friday; the tales of seventeenth century pirates and eighteenth century buccaneers; the sinking of German cruiser SMS Dresden on 14 March 1915 by British forces; and the three tsunamis that have devastated the island.

Travel Postcard, circa 1920

The Cliff’s Gaze is a quest for finding other visual representations of the cliff through archival research, such as drawings from nineteenth century botanists and travel postcards. These images will be juxtaposed with an eclectic collection of photographs of sites and objects taken with large format cameras in Britain, including: Llandoger Trow pub, Bristol where Defore supposedly met Selkik; the National Museums of Scotland where Selkik objects are displayed; and Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh where endemic plants of the island are kept.

I ultimately seek to visit the island to find the cliff and create a create a unique photographic body of work.