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.

The silver in the coins was mined from Spanish colonial mines in Peru and Mexico. The majority probably came from the largest silver mine in the world,  Potosí  (Bolivia). As the silver was extracted (it was found as silver- lead- zinc crystal, called galena) lead dust was released.

Lead from mining silver at Potosi 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 inquiry.

Think Like a Mountain

maping 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 Last Ice

The Ice Library of ice core samples at the Centre for Ice and Climate Science, Copenhagen.

With the assistance of Dr Paul Vallelonga, CICS.

Sounds of Wind in the Crystaline Forest

A propositional past-casting of the Cerro Rico mountain under which the Potosí mine sits, with groves of high-altitude queñua trees

3D video made with the assistance of Dr Andrew Yip