Quito, Ecuador (1989), lives and works in Quito

Incisiones  2019

B/W slide photos, carousel slide projector, car ring, steel base

Courtesy of the artist and Madragoa, Lisbon



The Skin of Labour  2016

16mm film transferred to digital video, 9’30”

Courtesy of the artist and Madragoa, Lisbon



BadYear (fragments)  2020-2021

natural rubber casts, steel

This installation benefits from the generous support of Elisa Estrada and Fabio Agovino

Commissioned for Rethinking Nature

Courtesy of Elisa Estrada

In his artistic practice, Adrián Balseca investigates the exploitation of natural resources and of labour in South America and their entanglement in international circulations of goods and finance. The body of works and research presented in ‘Rethinking Nature’ relate to the development of the rubber industry in the 19th and 20th centuries in the Ecuadorean Amazon when Europeans realised the potential applications of the tree’s derivatives already used by indigenous peoples to waterproof clothing and to other ends. With the advent of the late 19th century rubber boom, indigenous land was expropriated for plantations and people enslaved or pressed into lowly paid labour to increase production. The Amazon eventually lost primacy in the world rubber market when the British Empire developed plantations in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and equatorial Africa. Balseca’s silent film The Skin of Labour reveals a surreal black and white landscape of rubber trees, their white sap dripping into latex gloves, ghostly protective second skins evoking the hands of rubber tappers. Accompanying the video is BadYear, an installation of cast natural rubber elements. Echoing a museological display of marble fragments from classical antiquity, the work seemingly presents an industrial archaeology of the historical development of tires linked to the advent of the car as dominant mean of transportation. The artist drew on his research archive of tire tread patterns to create the projected work Incisiones, in which the tire designs of multinational rubber corporations, such as Firestone and GoodYear, are carved in blocks made from rubber tree wood.



Artist statement

The photos, films, fragments and documents gathered here account for my research on the financialization and technologization of the natural order. These works focus on the so-called ‘rubber boom’ which started at the beginning of the second half of the 19th century in the Amazon region of South America. I’m particularly interested in the socio- economic repercussions of this industrial period, and I attempt to track the shifts and displacements of the hevea brasiliensis around the world: following the fall of the market in the Amazon, to the synthetization of rubber for the consolidation of the modern development project. These ideas habilitate a possible ‘encounter’ between manufactured goods and its biological origin, that could open new paths towards the understanding of extractivist agendas and their environmental impacts on territory today.