Outline for The Bonding

Michelle-Marie Letelier &

The 16mm film and installation Outline for The Bonding is part of a larger research Letelier has conducted in collaboration with the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) in Matre, Norway. The project explores in depth the economic practice of salmon farming, the genetic manipulation of fish, and the impact of aquaculture on the local wildlife and the ecosystem's balance. Letelier’s work stresses the importance of ancestral knowledge and especially of Sámi epistemologies in the process of questioning the anthropocentric worldviews and human exceptionalism that led to genetic manipulation. The voice accompanying the images belongs to Sámi artist Ánde Somby. The text is an extract of a conversation with Letelier recorded in Tromsø in 2019.

Somby’s poetic monologue focuses on the inherent freedom of fish, in particular of the wild salmon. It confronts it with the degraded life of its farmed siblings, physically held captive and genetically violated. His reflections depart from acknowledging the perversion that is intrinsic in the food-chain. He does so by poetically shedding light on the 'merciless' condition of all heterotrophic life on the planet: animals (heterotrophs) are unable to create their own food, as opposed to autotrophs (plants, among others), who are able to subsist without killing. Animals, therefore, are 'doomed' to annihilate other forms of life in order to survive. However, this inescapable condition does not justify the extension of the current methods of industrial production rooted in Western capitalism, the limitless increase in production and optimization mostly relying on the pharmacologically-mediated replication of life and its overconsumption or waste. Ancestral knowledge and indigenous epistemologies emerge through Somby’s words as a worldview that is antithetical to the above mentioned: killing to eat is a necessary act for life, but it must be driven by respect and awareness of the interdependence of all organisms within the larger functioning of the ecologies.

At VIDEONALE.18, Outline for The Bonding is presented as a 16mm film installation that includes part of the documentation of a 2,5-year bonding between Letelier and a farmed salmon. The Bonding is the central part of the larger ongoing project Transpose. (Vanina Saracino)

Artist statement
My work encompass orchestrated transformations of natural resources, alongside extensive wide-ranging, interdisciplinary research into the landscapes where their exploitation and speculation take place. I spent my early life in Chuquicamata, a space of copper deposits in the Atacama Desert mined since pre-Hispanic times, annexed by Chile in the Saltpetre War, and home to the largest open-pit copper mine in the world. When the town was to be buried due to new mining policies, I returned to document this process — a pivotal moment that ushered in my practice. Since establishing in Berlin in 2007, I have focused my research on coal, copper, saltpetre, wind and salmon, in order to create a poetic work applying their properties — such as electrical conductivity, crystallisation, motion and agency. In my practice, I experiment with chemical and physical processes that produce the artworks, as well as their poiesis, beyond extractive industries and their forms of control. (Michelle-Marie Letelier)
Images: Michelle-Marie Letelier, Outline for The Bonding, 2019 © Michelle-Marie Letelier & VG Bild-Kunst / Courtesy Muscle Temple Lab

About the video

Title Outline for The Bonding
Year 2019
Videonale VIDEONALE.18
Length 00:05:20
Format 4:3
Country Germany, Norway,
Language English
Courtesy the artist and Muscle Temple Lab
Specifications color, sound, installation with 16mm film projection

About the artist

Michelle-Marie Letelier
  • 1977 in Rancagua, CHI, lives and works in Berlin, GER.
    Studied at the Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, CHI

Insights at Videonale X

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Vanina Saracino in conversation with Michelle-Marie Letelier, whose 16mm film installation Outline for The Bonding is part of a research project with the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) and deals, among others, with the effects of aquaculture on local wildlife and the balance of the ecosystem.