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Xavier Ribas. Nitrate

  • Sat, 11 Apr 2015 - Sun, 05 Jul 2015
  • 10.00 AM - 6.00 PM
  • Tickets: Free

Xavier Ribas. Nitrate is the first major solo exhibition in the UK by Barcelona born photographer Xavier Ribas.

This extensive collection of photographic and moving image works made across 2009-14 charts the history of nitrate extraction in the Chilean Atacama Desert. A non-renewable natural resource, Nitrate was extensively mined in Northern Chile between the 1870s and 1920s, mostly by British companies who, in a relatively short space of time, transformed a portion of the Atacama Desert into an industrial landscape. Sodium nitrate was traded mainly as a natural fertiliser but it was also used in the manufacture of explosives; a crucial ingredient for the acceleration of both life and death.

The various photographic series, texts and video which combine artistic, academic and journalistic approaches examine the route of Chilean nitrate. It is traced as it travels from its natural mineral state, processed in the 'oficinas' of the Atacama Desert, transported as a commodity to the docks of Liverpool and London, and traded through the stock market exchange to become, ultimately, part of the material and symbolic wealth of English mansions and estates.

The resulting exhibition can be considered a case study in the exploitative policies of extraction of non-renewable natural resources. Across the centuries and especially on the South American and African continents, the consequences of such practices in geopolitical, ecological and human terms have been acute.

Ribas has been involved in many international exhibitions including the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the Stedelijk Museum, the Bluecoat Liverpool, Museo Universidad de Navarra, Belfast Exposed, Aperture Gallery, George Eastman House, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Centro Huarte de Arte Contemporáneo and the Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo. His work is represented in major public and private collections including the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Stedelijk Museum, Fonds Nacional d'Art Contemporain, Museo Universidad de Navarra, Fotocollectie Universiteit Leiden, Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporáneo, and Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo. 

 Nitrate is part of the AHRC funded project Traces of Nitrate. Mining History and Photography Between Britain and Chile, developed at the University of Brighton in collaboration with historian Louise Purbrick and photographer Ignacio Acosta. 

Exhibition organised by the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and co-produced with the Museo Universidad de Navarra (MUN), Pamplona, in collaboration with the Bluecoat, with the support of The Arts & Humanities Research Council and Acción Cultural Española, AC/E (Spain’s State Agency for Cultural Action


Funders & Supporters

Event Partners:
  • Exhibition co-produced with Museo Universidad de Navarra
  • Arts & Humanities Research Council
  • Accion Cultural Espanola
  • Exhibition organised by MACBA

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