Daniela Rivera’s museum installations often focus on uncanny spatial and material dislocations. Breaking from the traditional mold of painting, she creates immersive experiences that draw from her personal history. Her 2015 Traveling Fellowship from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University inspired this ambitious transformation of Gallery 268 with materials, images, and sounds gathered from a landmark in her home country: Chile’s Chuquicamata copper mine.
Like an inversion of the naturally soaring Andes, Chile’s massive copper mines are machine-shaped canyons, a symbol of national pride and a driver of the Chilean economy, yet at a cost. Inhabited for generations, an employee town at Chuquicamata’s edge provided a world-class hospital, schools, theaters, sports fields, and homes for over 30,000 people. By 2008, new mining methods and increasing pollution forced the community to relocate; since evacuated, expanded digging has buried the site.
“The Andes Inverted” aims to explore the mine’s disruptive impacts—at once environmental, political, cultural, and psychological—and evokes the paradox faced by Chuquicamata miners, many of whom described the jobs and joy provided by the same mine that consumed their homes, memories, and landscape. Rivera explains the miners’ situation is not black-and-white but grey: “Their labor is both productive and destructive, the self-sabotage is the complexity of the place.”
Since 1894, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, now part of Tufts University, has awarded Traveling Fellowships, enabling select graduates to advance their artistic careers through funded travel and research. SMFA graduate Rivera (b. 1973, Santiago, Chile) was awarded a 2015 Traveling Fellowship. Her research in Chuquicamata and resulting works merited this solo exhibition, the first such architectural intervention in the I. M. Pei-designed Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.