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Metallic Threads (2010-2015)

A series of photographs documenting sites of transformation of copper alongise the commodity chain. This series weaves together one visual essay resulting from a series of photographic interventions in Chile and Britain.

Chile produces mainly ‘copper concentrate,’ a powder produced by means of a flotation system (crushing, milling and concentrating the primary material), typically containing 30 per cent of copper. Chile produces 1,400,000 tons of waste daily as a result of copper production. Whilst these toxic residues remain in the landscape where copper is being extracted, the primary material is shipped to industrial centres where it is transformed into ‘blisters,’ a more concentrated intermediate material.

Copper blisters’ are stored in warehouses around the world, where they can be exchanged up to forty times before final delivery. These intangible transactions take place through centres for metals trading, such as the London Metal Exchange, through ‘future contracts, agreements made to buy or sell a fixed amount of metal on a fixed future date at a price agreed today. The ‘blisters’ are melted down and mixed with other sources of copper, including recycled materials, forming ‘anodes’ that are transformed into ‘cathodes’ and then into ‘rods’ – the basic component for the production of cables for the energy and telecommunications industries.

Smelted copper returns to Chile hidden within manufactured goods, perpetuating a circle of mobility that began with the extraction of the ore.

Filed under: Copper Geographies

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.

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