Pleasure Dome is excited to start our new year with the North American premiere of Elise Rasmussen’s “In the Valley of the Moon,” a 16mm film transferred to 4K. The work emerged from the artist’s site-responsive residency at La Wayaka in Chile.
Part of Winter 2023
The screening can be accessed here from January 6-13, 2023.
Captioning is available here: Valley of the Moon Full Captions
In the Valley of the Moon investigates the paradoxes of scientific developments and ecological innovations, linking together mineral deposits in Chile’s Atacama Desert, food production, chemical warfare and the environmental toll of green energy. This work begins with revisiting the Haber-Bosch method, a scientific discovery of the early 20th Century which allowed for the creation of a synthetic version of sodium nitrate. This innovation was used to create fertilizer for food sources, something necessary as the growth of the world population superseded the subsistence that natural nitrate resources could provide. It is estimated that two-fifths of the world’s population would not have survived if it wasn’t for this discovery. Fritz Haber received a Nobel Prize for his innovation, but soon put this chemistry to use in the development of poisonous gases during the First World War. Distraught at her husband’s contribution to the war effort, Clara Immerwahr, a pacifist and the first woman to receive a Doctorate in chemistry in Germany committed suicide. Meanwhile, as a result of this discovery, the mining sites in the Atacama Desert in Chile, which had supplied the world with natural nitrate deposits, became ghost towns as the industry collapsed. Today the Atacama Desert is experiencing a mining renaissance as it has become one of the world’s leading producers of copper, lithium and rare-earth minerals. As the human population increasingly relies on these resources to feed the appetite for electronics and to grow electric vehicle industries, the consumption of these natural mineral deposits has taken an environmental toll on Atacama’s already fragile ecosystem. This work weaves together these histories and current realities to comment on what is gained and lost in the name of technological progress.
– Text by Elise Rasmussen
Elise Rasmussen (she/her) is a Los Angeles based artist and researcher working with lens-based media. She has exhibited, performed and screened her work internationally including venues such as the Brooklyn Museum, the Queens Museum, Pioneer Works (New York), JOAN, Night Gallery(Los Angeles), Institute of Modern Art, UQArt Museum (Brisbane), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), Belvedere 21 (Vienna), Sharjah Art Foundation (UAE), Dazibao (Montreal), the Doris McCarthy Gallery and Gallery 44 (Toronto). Elise wishes to thank La Wayaka Current artist residency and the Canada Council for the Arts for their support with this project.
Stills from “In the Valley of the Moon,” 16mm film transferred to 4K, Colour, Surround Sound, 20:27, 2022. Courtesy of the artist.