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With Salt and Rocks in Our Veins - for NaturArchy catalogue

Installtion view of With Salt and Rocks in Our Veins
Installtion view of With Salt and Rocks in Our Veins

This project considers the entangled rights for water, between nature and humans, through the entry point of contested water in the Atacama desert. Once an ancient seabed and now a site of saline water mining for lithium extraction, this remote desert site with its unique salt water dependent ecosystem is intimately entangled with the push for a lithium-focused energy transition away from fossil fuels and necessary response to anthropogenic climate change. 

The artwork generates digital twins of two remote natural saline lagoons in the Atacama desert, using drones, photogrammetry and gaming engine visualisation. These are linked in real-time with an automated web search for terms associated with green energy policies and lithium-led energy transitions. The landscapes decay over time as digital water levels deplete incrementally with each web hit. 

In collapsing the distance between these remote, unique desert saline waterbodies, and the centres of global north’s political and economic power, the work visualises- through a contemporary digital take on the Euro-historic visual art modality of ‘landscape’- a water-led speculative storytelling of cause to effect; of a passage from complexity to complexity.

The amount of lithium contained in technology used for this project has been estimated. The amount of brine ground water required to water-mine this amount of lithium has been calculated at between 80 and 400,000 L brine water. The wide range reflects the paucity of open data on brine water extraction in the Atacama. See / .

Web-crawler interactive virtual landscape projection, sound, fibreglass, water, ceramics

Penelope Cain | Graziano Ceddia & Luca de Felice 

In collaboration with: Alan Belward

Programing and worldbuilding: Nathan Marcus

With the generous support of the Stimuleringsfonds / Creative Industries Fund NL.

Residency Project:

Presentation of Residency @ JRC: 


Penelope Cain

Penelope Cain is an artist with a research science back- ground. Her art practice is located interstitially between scientific knowledge and unearthing connective untold narratives in the world; using video, installation, objects, flags, text, public participation in storytellings about the lands of the Anthropocene. Her work has been exhibited in commissioned and curated exhibitions nationally and internationally in Brazil, Britain, Australia, Taiwan, China and Korea. She was awarded the S+T+ARTS Repairing the Pre- sent residency in The Hague (2022), where she is working at the intersection of art, science and technology, and with lichen as an entry point to consider interspecies col- laboration, notions of microrewilding and ‘lichen time’. In this research she is developing tiles to invite lichen growth, working with algal and fungal print pigments as well as a virtual 3D urban micro-rewilding environments. Working with In4Art, Witteveen +Bos and institutions including the City of the Hague, Delft TU, Dutch Bryological and Lichen Society.

More on this project


Twitter: @penelopecain

Instagram: @penelopecain

LinkedIn: @penelopecain

Graziano Ceddia

Graziano Ceddia is a social scientist with a background in applied environmental economics and political economy. He has been working on a range of topics at the interface between social and environmental sciences, with a strong focus on agricultural expansion and deforestation in the Global South. Between 2016 and 2021 he has been leading a research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) studying the impact of governance structures and indigenous peoples land rights on deforestation in the Chaco Salteño (Argentina). He has worked at different universities across Europe. He is currently working as a scientific research officer at the European Commission‘s Joint Research Centre on issues related to the social and environmental impact of agriculture, with a special focus on the role of agroecology.

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Twitter: @ GrazianoCeddia

Luca De Felice

Luca De Felice is a geo-spatial data scientist. Since 2018, he joined the EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) D6 Unit – Knowledge for Sustainable Development & Food Security - where he is responsible for the development and update of the Global Surface Water Explorer (GSWE). He is also responsible for managing the JRC’s close collaboration with UNEP in designing and developing the indicators and the interface of UNEP’s new Freshwater Ecosystem Explorer, which helps monitor progress towards SDG 6.6.1 (Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time).

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Alan Belward

Alan Belward works at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Italy where he is Acting Director and head of the Food Security Unit in the Directorate for Sustainable Resources. Alan has served on numerous inter- national science panels including the Global Climate Ob- serving System, the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 Mission Advisory Group and the NASA and USGS’ Landsat Science Team. He has a BSc in Plant Biology from New- castle University, as well as MPhil and PhD degrees from Cranfield University’s School of Agriculture Food and Environment and is a Fellow of the UK’s Royal Society of Biology.