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Hygeia Watches Over Us (2022)

Forty photographs, arranged in a four-row grid, contribute to Ignacio Acosta’s multimedia installation Hyiegia Watches Over Us, 2022 at the Mining Photography exhibition at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MK&G), Hamburg.

Combined, they aesthetically and metaphorically link three motifs into an associative network which comment upon the contradictions at play in copper production and water consumption. In the upper row, a chimney of the Hamburg copper producer Aurubis AG rises up into the air, paralleled by the city’s sculpture of Hygieia – the Greek goddess of health. Recalling our current period of contagion, the bronze figure was created by Joseph von Kramer at the end of the nineteenth century after Hamburg’s devastating cholera epidemic of 1892. Erected in celebration of the outbreak’s defeat and clean water, Hygieia stands upon a fountain with her back turned on Hamburg’s City Hall, looking towards the Chamber of Commerce in a nod towards industry and trade.

In the lower rows, detailed close-ups of the fountain are ambiguously interlaced with stained rubber suits worn by Aurubis AG’s workers to protect themselves from sulphuric acid. Acosta’s arrangement juxtaposes the persistent contradictions: the resource- and water-intensive copper industry, and its pollutive impact on the Elbe, with the politically charged statue and tainted labour. Analogies arise between the copper parts of the bronze sculpture, oxidised to a green patina, and the traces of dirty work in the copper plant, thus thematising the relationships of industry, politics, and society in relation to water and resource consumption.

The artist expands on these themes in a video interview with Klaus Baumgart from the Hamburg environmental protection initiative Save the Elbe .
The installation is completed with Inverted Pyramid, 2022, a table with images, documents and objects from the series Copper Geographies, an investigation into the global mobility of mined copper that began in 2010 with his involvement in the Traces of Nitrate research project at the University of Brighton, UK.


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Im a Chilean born, London based visual artist and researcher.

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