Elisa Balmaceda (Chile) + #sun

*El cielo que cae*, Atacama, 2016

How did your relationship with the sun begin? It looks like it started with shadows?

That's actually a good question. I think in terms of my work, I started playing a little bit with light and shadows, but on a conscious level, it was more like living in Germany and having to go through darkness in winter. Connecting the feelings of my body to light and the sun, or lack of sun. I would go and test my vitamin D levels, I could feel this lack of sun, physically. And then, when I was writing my thesis, I got obsessed with the Atacama desert as a place where the sun's radiation is just very, very strong. That was when I connected to the sun, and energy. I called my thesis Invisible architectures which is a quote from Juan Downey, an artist from the 70's I really like.

*El cielo que cae*, Atacama, 2016

How do you communicate with the sun? From seeing your process or trying to understand your process, you studied astronomical instruments, aligned exhibition openings with the equinox, solstice...

Yes, I feel the solstice and equinox as rituals of communication with the sun, but not only with the sun. Being situated in a place and tracing the alignment to a hyperobject, this big entity, and drawing these invisible lines that connect you and your body to this other body which is the sun. What fascinates me is that in order to trace this and to visualize the connection with the sun, you need these other bodies inbetween, like a mountain. In the end, it's always a system of communication, connecting your own body to your surroundings. And your presence - I think it has a lot to do with being present. I use augmented reality in my current project, and different apps to complement these invisible lines... to see the position of the sun and to visualize things I can not otherwise visualize on such scales.  I guess that's the fascination with hyperobjects and cosmic phenomena - these invisibilities or abstractions in terms of scale. That's what I love about these augmented reality apps, they help me to grasp these movements and changes while I am standing in a specific place. And in these practices of observation, especially in ancestral astronomy, you always combine these motions with fixed elements, like a mountain or rocks. Of course the mountain changes in terms of cycles - it's more green in spring - but as a body, it is always fixed... Fortunately, they haven't found a way to extract whole mountains, for now. And then you have these other elements, such as the sun or the earth, moving and changing in correlation with other entities or bodies. It's always changing. Observing these movements and cycles is one of my favorite rituals.

*Observatorio efímero* *# *2 (Winter solstice), Chena Mountain, Santiago, 2021 - 22

I noticed you were changing hemispheres frequently over the years, were you following the sun?

That's a beautiful way to put it, that I was following the sun. It blew my mind, every time I changed hemisphere, everything was inverted. I could feel that I was living on a sphere, which is something we cannot really grasp. Even the horizon we perceive as a line. Here in Chile the sun is always in the north, and in Germany it is always in the south. Everytime I would change I'd feel disoriented. I realized that through colonization and the overlapping of European culture here, many things actually don't fit at all, even the clock... The movement of the sun is the basis of the clock, right? If you trace the sun here, starting at the 12, it moves on to 11, to the left. When you trace the sun in the northern hemisphere, it goes from 12 to 1, 2, 3... I started to perceive those kinds of things as parts of a different system. I realized how we grew up disoriented due to connections that are totally disconnected from these entities or this landscape. And actually there is no up and down, physically. This planet is just a sphere floating, as far as we know, in the universe, in space. I started to play with this inversion, feeling this inversion, the gesture of inverting as a subversive act, as Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui says. In a sense, when you invert things, you change the perspective. I came back feeling broken from living in these different worlds and being myself a product of these contradictions of a colonized place. And then reading her was really healing, because she grasps these contradictions and accepts them, but also proposes how to emancipate living with them, inhabiting them, rescuing - you know, giving dignity again to forgotten and oppressed inner selves, cultures, ancestors. She takes these inversions as an action to change perspectives. That inspired me to create the piece Solar Chamber.

*Solar Chamber*, in collaboration with Luis Balmaceda, Portugal, 2019 - 21

Does this idea relate to Billions of suns as well?

I just finished a monograph with the title Billions of suns, which is derived from Brighter than a thousand suns, the title of a book on nuclear history by Robert Jungk, which was mentioned by Karen Barad. But it's also connected to the billions of suns today -  we are more exposed to screens than to the sun. And the light of the screen has a blue spectrum that wakes you up and regulates your cycles. I'm fascinated by these multidimensional realities of light.

The screen light literally changes our melatonin production...

Exactly, the circadian cycles. We are affected by these light bodies. And when you change hemispheres, your inner clock stays in the other place, even though your body moved. Then you feel something physically, as if some parts of you are still there. It takes a while, the jet lag. I guess that's how the body catches all these cycles and energies that are invisible, but actually so physical!

*Taypi. 10000 Suns, *Cologne/ Santiago, 2019

One of your pieces, Taypi. 10.000 suns, connects the largest artificial sun in Germany to Andean ceremony. It consists of a metallic rhombus shape, describing the four celestial directions as a place for ritual and process of change. That change manifests in this artificial sun melting the metal. I love how conscious you are about energy flows, powering video screenings with solar panels for example - accentuating or reminding of the land’s inherent abundance, without the intensity of such radiation levels.

Absolutely. I never thought about it in terms of abundance but it's totally, of course, related to it. I feel it has to do with not being able to understand flows of energy. In that sense I find very inspiring how for example Mapuche understand energy, being aware of the invisible world as something material. All entities in an ecosystem are not only material bodies like water or air, but also energy. And when it comes to hyperphenomena like the climate or the sun, it gets even more abstract. I guess it is about how consciously we understand presence and absence. Being aware of the presence of things we cannot grasp or see, and observe how they become material through their relationship to other entities. When we learn to feel energy in a more holistic way, as many cultures do, especially indigenous ones, we perceive these existing correlations, producing and consuming. Sounds again very elemental (laughs).

*Umbra*, Araucanía, 2021

Do you feel solar storms or coronal mass ejections affecting our electromagnetic field? I get a very specific headache on the left side, apparently there's a part in my body connecting to the sun somehow.

I'm very sensitive to electromagnetic fields, but more in terms of antennas for cell phones or other human-made electronic devices. I feel some sort of pressure in my head sometimes when being too close to EMF emitting sources. In terms of the sun, what I really feel energetically are these sort of portal or transition moments of the day, sunrise and the sunset. I started to meditate at sunset. During this light transition I feel there is some sort of communication taking place in my body. I recently read about the relationship of plants to electromagnetic fields. There are experiments in which scientists put plants which open and close their leaves with the sun into a closet without light. They realized that even when the closet was fully closed and totally dark, the plants would do the same: open or close their leaves according to the presence of the sun outside. That means plants can feel this electromagnetic field, not only light. And during the pandemic, I could even feel that, because I was in lockdown and not really exposed to the light outside, it was even winter. But I could feel the transition and  started to think even more about rituals related to these cycles of sun and earth which take place during these transitional moments of light and darkness. I’ve lately been studying the 11 year sun cycles and solar storms. I find it fascinating that they are affecting all our technologies and that they could even invert the magnetic poles that regulate them one day. This would mean that all our technologies would kind of shift. It's incredible to think about the power of these non-human forces and hyperobjects. The soviet biophysicist Alexander Chizhevsky conducted a study on how sun cycles affect societies in terms of revolutions and social movements. I started to wonder if the uprisings in Chile maybe correlate to sun cycles. I'm sure we are affected by these changing fields and energetic forces all the time.

*El cielo que cae*, Atacama, 2016

You mentioned that you're meditating during sunset. Do you have other rituals to celebrate the sun, similar to ancient cultures celebrating solar deities?

Mostly meditating or just observing the sky. It is interesting how these elemental rituals became almost sacred for everybody since the pandemic started. I live close to a hill with a part of preserved native forest. I'd go up there and take a sunbath, worshipping the sun, getting to see the environment as well. I also make drawings and cyanotypes as practices that connect me to the sun and it's transition / transformation. Observing these movements and cycles of the cosmos make me somehow feel connected, alive… in motion.