project image
Camille Sasson

first performed on January 12, 2019
Gallery 1412, Seattle, WA
performed once in 2019


Seattle, WA


“extr.action” is an unwieldy transplant, a tumor, a foreign body with stolen tissue.

The things I take and the things my ancestors took scar the place. Product stands as an artifact of violent extraction. It is processed, cleaned, erased, recontextualized. It is set on a table far from its origin, and the origin grows around the wound.

How do reciprocal scars form. How do I relate to a place I have only known through power. Violence binds the artifacts: the taker, the taken, and the taken from.

“extr.action” is a recontextualization of time spent in the Atacama desert outside Coyo, Chile with La Wayaka Current Artist Residency. The indigenous people see the Atacama as a birth place, the space between mother and father mountains. In this same desert, the water is privatized by corporations, and people pay to live where their ancestors are buried. This same land has been continuously quarried and mined for hundreds of years for lithium salt which is dug out, floated in pools, and shipped around the world.

My white, wealthy Anglo-Chileno great-grandfathers, and people who looked like them, were responsible. When I was visiting, I attempted the Sisyphean task of repairing my inherited relationship to place. I reckoned with the histories a body like mine had with the desert, and the action-memories of extraction. In my performance “from:on,of” I dug a hole and buried myself in it, positioning the action of digging not as taking, but as offering. In turn, the desert fed me, bathed me, and burned my back until the skin came off in bleeding sheets. I gave to it, and it gave to me.

On returning to Seattle, I struggled to reconcile with the exchange. I felt duplicitous, like even in my attempted reparations I had stolen something. I performed “extr.action” to shed some of what I had stolen and move forward. I lined a black room from floor to ceiling in 600 printed photographs of my sun-burned body, and 600 prints of the cracked desert floor. I lay under 450 pounds of rock salt for five hours, from midday until sun-down. I was rendered incapacitated by the weight of the extracted product. My body was numb and immobile. After the fifth hour, I dragged myself out and onto the salt. I cut off my shirt to show the still-present shadow of the burn.