Adrian Balseca: Routing Rubber

January 29th, 2024

Routing Rubber, (January 19th - March 30th, 2024), showcases Ecuadorian artist Adrian Balseca’s research on rubber tapping in the Amazon. Produced on 16mm film, the short Skin of Labour (2016) and its accompanying fake archive, provide a historical revision of Ecuador’s rubber boom, which saw its highest production from the years 1879 to 1912. Through both the film and archive, Balseca challenges the idea of the Amazon as a natural horizon, centering it at the origin of industrial modernity.

Adrian Balseca’s (Quito, b. 1989) practice broadly focuses on South America’s extractive histories contemplating their ensuing environmental impacts. Producing installations, photographs, and objects, the artist tracks a trajectory of economic exploitation that allows for a reflection on the physical, economic, and epistemic violence contained within modes of production. Often beginning with site-specific interventions based around banal yet symbolic objects, Balseca goes on to explore their manufacturing process, raising questions relating to nature, power, and memory.

Carefully selected by the artist, the visual archive holds pamphlets, advertisements, manuals, and other types of ephemera produced by The Pan American Union, The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and the 1939 New York World’s Fairs. The archive, albeit being an arbitrary selection of period ephemera, provides viewers with a clear association between rubber commodities and Amazonian trees. The historic materials also connect the patterns of tapping with the growth and development of the automobile industry in the United States. The emphasis on the modernization of the Amazon seen in The Skin of Labour and its fake archive is meant to contend with the idea of this transnational region as a hyper-natural site, a site of endless biodiversity, a “jungle pharmacy,” and an expansive and ever-giving ecosystem.

Besides showing us the many industrial uses of Hevea Brasiliensis trees, the exhibition leaves traces of the conditions of labor in the Amazon, where the trees remain witness to the human and non-human massacres product of a violent modernity.

Adrián Balseca was born in Quito, Ecuador in 1989. He lives and works in Bueno Aires. He conducts interdisciplinary, site-specific interventions and actions, produces video documentation and photographic series, and builds sound installations and sculptural objects. Among other areas, he is interested in the relationship between the rural and the urban, the tensions between artisanal practices and industrial production, and extractive economies and colonial abuses. Many of his proposals critically address the dynamics of extraction and their environmental impact, as well as the historical and economic processes that have contributed to the consolidation of modern development. He has participated in international exhibitions such as the Sâo Paulo Biennial (2021), Cuenca Biennial, Ecuador (2018) and Cosmopolis at the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2019), among others. He has had solo exhibitions at the Museu da Cidade, Sâo Paulo (2021), Museo de Arte Precolombino Casa del Alabado, Quito (2017) and at the galleries N24, Quito (2021), Madragoa, Lisbon (2019, 2016) and Ginsberg, Lima (2019). In 2013, he won the inaugural Prémio Brasil Emerging Art Prize, at the Center for Contemporary Art Quito (CAC) and in 2014 he received the Premio Paris at the 12th International Cuenca Biennial: Leaving to return. He was awarded the annual Grants & Commissions Program 2015, at the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO).