Ignacio Perez Meruane
My practice is focused on exploring overlapping histories- geological, political, social and personal- and thinking through their connections through a sculptural process. Many of my projects have focused on the connection between resource extraction and our built environment, and the process by which raw materials become commodities and circulate globally. I am interested in how capitalism and globalization intersect with and impress upon culture, people, and our environment.
First presented in 2015 at Galeria Tajamar in Santiago, Chile, one ongoing project explores the history of the Chile’s copper mining industry. The work takes as its point of departure connections between Chuquicamata and the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Chuquicamata, the world’s largest open pit copper mine, was opened in northern Chile in 1915 by the Guggenheim family. The project addresses the global circulation of copper as a commodity, extracted from one location and transported to another, alongside copper’s inherent capacity to conduct the flow of electricity and transmit information. Frank Lloyd Wright’s theory of organic architecture, in which a building and its elements are integrated with their environment, is contrasted in these works with Solomon Guggenheim’s willful exploitation of that which comes from the earth – copper.
Other works more closely explore the way in which materials and objects are tied to specific locations or environments. In advance of the birth of my daughter, I was made to reflect on my personal history of migration, from Chile to the United States, my grandparent’s migration from Palestine to Chile, and my daughter’s identity as a future American. Prenatal and Postnatal Flavor Learning by Human Infants, a medical study published in 2001, confirms what we had learnt as ‘folk wisdom’ during the pregnancy: “Flavors from the mother’s diet during pregnancy are transmitted to amniotic fluid and swallowed by the fetus. Consequently, the types of food eaten by women during pregnancy and, hence, the flavor principles of their culture may be experienced by the infants before their first exposure to solid foods.” Mothers, among other works, presented a meal, consisting of a Palestinian family recipe of grape leaves stuffed with minced beef and rice. I was interested in the geographical connection between California, Chile, and Palestine; all places were grapes are grown and this dish could be made using ‘local’ ingredients. Another work presented in the exhibition, electric blanket, consists of knit copper wire with hanging lapidary stones once belonging to my late grandmother. The stones and copper refer to the geological composition of Chile, while the copper wire is meant as a metaphorical means of cultural transmission.