With Salt And Rocks In Our Veins

With Salt And Rocks In Our Veins

New work commissioned for NaturArchy @IMAL, Art Centre for Digital Cultures and Technology, Brussels 24May-24Sept 2024

Curated by Caterina Benincasa, Claudia Schnugg, Ingeborg Reichle

NaturArchy takes a starting point a contract for nature; embracing the arts for systemic change, NaturArchy proposes a re-consideration of our imaginaries around nature and the non-human.

For EU Science Art Society

Catalogue essay: HERE


Of a desert periphery, the Atacama, once ancient inland sea, now the driest desert in the world, where the salty crust and the underground brine water recalls its deep past as a sea, rich in lithium salts.

Of the unique lithium-rich ground water, twice as salty as the ocean, that feeds the natural lagoons in the desert, and of the complex ecosystem evolved to exist in these unique extreme conditions.

Of collapsing the distance between Global North centers of power, of energy policies and economic drivers, and over-the-horizon peripheries such as the Atacama.

Above: Documentation of installation, WITH SALT AND ROCKS IN OUR VEINS

gamified landscape projection, webcrawler on screen, fibreglass ponds, ceramic rocks

A planetary storytelling centering  around the contested rights for water, between nature and humans. In particular, poorly-understood ground water, in a remote and unique location, the oldest and driest desert in the world – the Atacama desert- where groundwater is mined for lithium. The complexity of this water issue is unique but critical in the current green energy transition, yet also stands in for so many water based conflicts between environmental needs and human demands.

A web-crawler searches the internet for over 40 search terms relating to the lithium energy transition and the necessary action of decarbonisation. The crawler is linked to a gamified digital twin of two remote ground-water fed saline lagoons in the Atacama desert. The virtual environment degrades slowly  with each hit from the webcrawler as the in-game water level drops in response to the crawler hits.

The work seeks to collapse the distance between  policy and economic ‘centers’ of the global North and the remote over-the-horizon periphery of the Atacama desert, to speculate on the entangled rights for water between nature and humans, and dwell on planetary complexity of cause and effect in the Anthropocene.

Gaming environment: Working with programmer worldbuilder Nathan Marcus.

Research background:HERE    Commissioned work for SACO Biennial, 2023: HERE

This project was commissioned by the EU JRC SCIART for Naturarchy

Working across 15 months with scientists in the fields of ground water management, global surface water imaging, microbiology.

The project received additional support from the Creative Industries Fund NL

Note1: Using the lithium water footprint calculations published by Investigative journalist site, Danwatch, the lithium used in technology for this project was extracted by evaporating somewhere between 80 and 400,000 L brine water. (The range indicates how sparce is the brine water data released by mining companies).