Trafficking the Earth

Xavier Ribas, Louise Purbrick, Ignacio Acosta

    Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition


    Trafficking the Earth is an installation artwork and publication. The artwork, comprising 336 photographs and texts, was first exhibited at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo [MAC], Santiago, Chile (2017), and subsequently deposited for permanent collection in the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago. The publication, termed a folded exhibition, contains 58 images and texts.

    Produced collaboratively by photographer Ribas and art historian Louise Purbrick between 2012-2018, and including photographic work by Ignacio Acosta, Trafficking the Earth directly addressed a gap in historical understanding and cultural awareness of the global significance of the nitrate industry. It explored how transformation over time could be mapped to create ‘biographies’ of nitrate sites and artefacts, and asked what strategies of visual presentation were most effective in generating, sequencing and interpreting a dispersed material culture and a disparate historical record.

    The work tests a curatorial technique that juxtaposes words and images to disrupt linear historical narratives, using elements that include original photography as well as archival documents and imagery. Each element is a fragment of the history of mining in Chile, highlighting the movement of the mineral wealth into global markets and European landscapes, the visible change or disappearance of the mined commodity, and the traces that remain as capital. By assembling and analysing spatial, visual, material and archival records, the research drew attention to where British and Chilean histories converged and separated and brought insight into the selective process of remembering and forgetting the past, as well as the problems associated with contested spaces and unequally shared legacies.

    The work has also been shown at the London Art Fair (2018) and Centro de Arte y Naturaleza, Huesca, Spain (2019-20) and was the subject of a journal article in ‘Transformations’ (2020).
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo Universidad de Chile, Santiago
    Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2017


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