Saturn’s Breath

SATURN’S BREATH

This project is about circulation, through a series of meanings.

Video, performance, photography, writing

 

 

Taking as a starting point the first official Australian colonial currency: Lachlan Macquarie’s holey dollar of 1812, this line of investigation biomaps at a molecular level the silver in these coins, through a linked series of anthropogenic landscapes, from Spanish colonial silver mines, a remote glacier in Peru and a scientific research centre in Copenhagen.

In the face of insufficient British currency in the colony, in 1812 Govenor Lachlan Macquarie ordered a consignment of £10,000 worth of Spanish silver dollars, the most widely traded currency at the time.

The silver in the coins was mined from Spanish colonial mines in Peru and Mexico, which were heavily worked across two centuries under punishing human and environmental conditions. Some of this silver came from the largest Spanish colonial mine of the time, the Potosi mine in Peru (now Bolivia). Lead released from mining silver at Potosi in the 17th and 18th century has been detected, wind-born, in ice core samples from the Quelccaya ice cap, the largest tropical ice-mass in the world.

Lead dust, falling with snow, was compressed across the years and centuries. Ice cores extracted from the glacial ice, compressed frozen water and atmospheric impurities,  are a vertical time capsule and map of human activities, able to trace through mineral contamination in layers of ice, the activities of the Spanish colonial empire.

Saturn’s Breath

video highlights, work in progress

Flags bearing an image of an oversized galena crystal (lead/silver/zinc) representing the galena mined at Potosí, were raised over the Quelccaya ice cap by men from the region, in an act of recognition of the molecular level territorialisation. These flags also act as standards to identify the emergent anthropogenic landscape- lead over ice, extraction over precipitation.

In 2021 these galena flags, along with water collected from the Quelccaya glacier, will be taken to Potosí to complete the line of enquiry.

Walking the Ice Library

(Juxtaposed)

Research in progress

Juxtaposing footage from a library of ice cores, an industrial freezer room holding 60 years of research samples from Quelccaya and other glaciers around the world. The freezer room contains sufficient length of ice to stretch for 10 km if laid end to end and as old as 40,000 years old.
Juxtaposed with footage flying down a glacial valley at the foot of the Quelccaya glaciated icecap, Peru. The glacier breaths in and out in deep time, as climate cools and warms. The ice mass is predicted to be gone within 50 years.

This work in progress is part of ongoing research, molecular mapping from colonial mining activities, on a journey that started with Lachlan Macquarie’s holey dollar, to consider a series of anthropogenic landscapes.

Think Like a Mountain

Quelccaya, like all other glaciers, is melting, and under current models will be gone within 50 years. This line of inquiry maps the regression of the Quelccaya ice cap betwen 1798 and 1998. Scientific advice, data and assistance has been provided by Dr Christian Yarleque, National Institude for Research on Glaciers, Peru and Dr Douglas Hardy, University of Massachusetts.

The THINK LIKE A MOUNTAIN project aims to map the western margins of the Quelccaya ice cap, where they would have been in 1797 and in 1997; from the approximate beginning of the industrial revolution and 200 years later when the Kyoto protocol was signed. This line, between rock and ice, considers the effect of climate change on this landscape, across this 200-year window of attitudes, colonisations, and economic thinking in relation to the environment.

A work in progress video will map this line through a combination or walking, drone flight and virtual 3D space.