> Destilaciones, 2014

 

Destilaciones

The project comprises of two components, each in dialogue with the other: ‘Aceite de Piedra’, a two-channel video depicting the existing aspects of the socio – economic life of Lobitos, a small seaside town located 1,084 km north from Lima, and its natural surroundings; and ‘Destilaciones’, an installation composed of a group of various sized ceramic pots presented on the floor and within a steel structure. Copper pipes run through the perforated ceramics evoking the design of an oil purifier.

The extraction of oil began in Lobitos at the start of the twentieth century, with the arrival of the British oil company Lobitos Oilfields Limited. The infrastructure built alongside the plant included a desalination plant (now defunct), a church, a casino and a cinema (one of the first in Latin America), all now in ruins.

Following the 1968 military coup by General Velasco Alvarado, the Peruvian government initiated a program of nationalization and the oilfields fell under the control of the state. Soon after, the Ministry of Defense built a military base upon the adjacent land.

Sadly, thereafter the following years lead to a slow decline due to mis-management, the economic prosperity of the town slid still further until eventually collapsing, mirroring that of the economy nationally. Throughout this duration, these events were witnessed in parallel by different generations of fishermen living nearby in a cove very close to Lobitos.

Today, what one encounters are the ruins of buildings left by the British oil company; the debris of what used to be the old military base; and the traffic of surfers that come every year in search of waves. Currently, the oil extraction is concessioned to South American Petroleum Exploration Tech (Sapet), a transnational company, set mainly with Chinese capital. There is also a major investment plan to privatize the town and proposing a transformation of Lobitos into a tourist resort.

In this project, Lobitos is seen as a microcosm portraying different waves of colonialism and the exercise of authoritarian power within the context of a developing country. By tracing economic and political cycles, the video registers the residue of human activity within the landscape. Environmental and social issues are presented in relation to the modern exploitation of resources. This is juxtaposed in contrast to the localized ancient practices, such as fishing and pottery.

There is a teleological projection within the three epochs of political domination that have left their mark on Lobitos; European colonialism, the nation-state autonomy and neo-liberal globalization; each model leaving behind remnants of its failure.