left - 'Terabytes pushing terrabites', 2017, 3 channel HD video, loop
right - 'One wave, one camel', 2017, quartz, silversand, calcium carbonate, soda ash, betone, metal oxides, 26 slabs of 27 × 35 × 5 cm
There are two seemingly abstract black and white salt prints next to each other in Femke Herregraven’s studio. Yet while the two images are at first glance comparable, they are literally worlds apart. In one we see the view of stars from the Danakil Depression taken by the Ethiopian observatory, in the other a satellite composite image shows the same location from above. Between these two counter images lies a whole spectrum of scientific exploration, capitalist exploitation, the collapse of cosmic, geological, human and machine temporalities, over a location that is deemed the hottest, and at 100 meters below sea level, one of the lowest places on earth. Here, where three tectonic plates come together, steam, liquids and metal oxides flow out of clusters of small volcanoes and crack into multi-colored crystal plateaus of sulphur and potassium salt. For centuries the Afar people have been cutting the salt slabs that used to be an ancient form of currency; the fossils in the region prompt some paleontologists to deem it the “cradle of humanity”; due to its unique conditions astrobiologists use it to explore how life might evolve on other planets; investors survey the area to speculate on the mineral and precious metals markets; and so on and so forth. Employing a strategic porosity, Herregraven’s work lies at the intersection of these various disciplines, analyzing the data and images, speculating on how one form of inquiry informs the other, how the scientific investigations yield financial accumulation, how the narrative of the unexplored frontiers feeds into the imaginary and prediction of the future.
In her work Femke Herregraven explores which new material base, geographies and value systems contemporary financial technologies and infrastructures carve out. Her ongoing investigations zooms in on the relationship between financial value, geological instability, biological and technological self-organising systems.