Michelle-Marie Letelier

Berlin, Germany

Caliche Crystals #3

Digital photography series of saltpeter crystals, 2014

One of Letelier’s recent works focuses on the maritime route of Chile saltpeter (sodium nitrate) from Northern Chile to Germany.

Below the cobalt blue skies, below the barren and dry surface, the Atacama desert preserves large deposits of minerals: copper, lithium, and the world’s largest supply of sodium nitrate. Before the beginning of the 20th century, when German chemists discovered the Haber process, a procedure to synthetically produce sodium nitrate, Chile saltpeter was mined in the Atacama region and exported mostly to Europe and the United States, where it was sold as fertilizer and for the production of gunpowder. Saltpeter travelled the ocean route from the ports of Northern Chile, through Cape Horn, traversing the expanse of the Southern and Northern Atlantic Ocean, to Northern Europe. Locally known as Caliche, Chile saltpeter has a diverse range of meanings: A symbol of land fertility, war and death simultaneously.

Its wind-propelled voyage through the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and the passionate human involvement around this crystalline salt spurred the first phase of ongoing experimentations that relate to magic connections between Man and the Earth, wind energy and the sails to harness it, the geologic formation of saltpeter and the scars left by mines on the desert landscape of Atacama today.

C-Print limited edition of 10 + A.P
45,5 x 45,5 cm

Exhibited at El Museo de Los Sures, New York, USA

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