Michelle-Marie Letelier was born in 1977 in Rancagua, Chile.
Her installations, photographs, videos and drawings encompass orchestrated transformations of natural resources, alongside extensive wide-ranging, interdisciplinary research into the landscapes where their exploitation and speculation take place. Through her work, she places together different epochs, regions and societies, examining political-economic, historical and cultural aspects.
Michelle-Marie Letelier spent her early life in Chuquicamata, a space of copper deposits in the middle of the Atacama Desert of mined since pre-Hispanic times, annexed by Chile in the Saltpetre War (1879-84), and home to the largest copper mine in the world. When the town was to be buried due to new mining policies, Letelier returned to document this process—a pivotal moment that ushered in her practice.
Since establishing in Berlin in 2007, she has focused her research on five resources: coal, copper, saltpetre, wind and, more recently, salmon. By applying, mixing and constellating their properties—such as electrical conductivity, crystallisation and agency—, chemical and physical transformation processes produce the artworks themselves, as well as their poiesis, beyond the extractive industry and its forms of control.
The work of Michelle-Marie Letelier carries heavy socio-political overtones; it is eloquently reflective especially in times of unveiled globalization, the increasing scarcity of raw materials and the crisis of the neoliberal model.