This contextual installation and project investigates the velocity of changes brought about by the interplay between extraction, technology, geopolitics and the Chilean resource landscape our world tacitly depends on. It is part of a long-term artistic project based on residencies in Chile and support from various regional and international partners.
The Danish artist group Lehman Brothers’ exhibition Cerro Point Blanco is about mining and the history of extraction in Chile, and of the progress of capitalism in Chile seen through Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick as a framing metaphor. Moby-Dick is a novel inspired by the mysterious white whale ‘Mocha Dick’, which was said to have lived off the coast of Chile in the first half of the 19th century. The artist group sees Melville’s polymathic novel as a tale pointing to the madness and downfall of capitalism, with the Great White Whale as the starting point for an exploration of the self-fulfilling drive towards self-destruction. In the hunt for the white whale, however, Lehman Brothers have caught the scent of something even bigger in the Atacama region of northern Chile, namely the extraction of titanium, whose whiteness and properties are highly sought after. The group focuses on the American mining company White Mountain Titanium Corporation, which ran a large titanium mining project in the Atacama desert under the name Cerro Blanco, a mysterious project that went bankrupt and disappeared in 2017 despite major investors.
In their video work, the artists look at this multinational corporation and its extraction project by filming directly at Cerro Blanco (which the company at the time claimed contains the world’s largest titanium reserves). So why a bankruptcy when titanium as a mineral is in such demand, not only by our technological sectors, but also by our desires through the various devices and materials provided en masse by the global economy? Lehman Brothers observes in their work that the bankruptcy mirrors a typical pattern for mining operations in the north of Chile, which have been characterized by ‘boom and bust’ cycles throughout the country’s history, emerging from silver to saltpetre extraction approximately a hundred years ago, to for example copper and lithium extraction today. Their work makes us consider directly our own relation to the extractivist economy, and causes us to reflect on how we can begin the hard work of reconsidering the promises of extraction vs the waste and drain it imposes on individual countries and the world as a planetary ecosystem.
In addition to the video work, the exhibition Cerro Point Blanco features a number of objects, including a desert ‘landscape’ composed of large cacti which have been smeared in sunscreen, and a metal sculpture that brings to mind harpoons. Because titanium is a recurring material in these works and the exhibition as a whole, the whiteness of the mineral or its capacity to create this property, also hints at the racialized relations between capital and people. It is found in the sunscreen in which the cacti are covered, and the metals used to build handheld devices or huge telescopes, just like the one at La Silla Observatory, which appears in the video work. The observatory has a Very Large Telescope and studies stellar bodies, such as galaxy NGC 247, which is found in the constellation Cetus (literally meaning the Whale). This seemingly purely scientific gazing into outer space also reveals the speculative face of capital, currently packaged as ‘space research’, but quietly dreaming of future metal and mineral extraction from the shores of distant planets and/or asteroids.
The exhibition is a constellation that brings together the whale as focal point and white titanium as a primary medium, where different views of man’s pursuit of expansion and exploitation (given in the pursuit of raw materials whether in the ground or in space) result in the sublime extraction of resources that we may never be able to duplicate again. Once more leaving us in a state of contradiction between our infinitesimal fantasies and our finite realities.
Kilde: SixtyEight Art Institute
Gothersgade 167, st. th.
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