Copper Geographies (2010-2015)

Map of fieldwork conducted during the research.

Map of fieldwork conducted during the research.

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.