"Since 2009, Xavier Ribas has devoted his photographic practice to looking into the natural history of nitrate. Unlike his earlier series, in which the landscape anchored the artist’s documentary and empirical engagement, nitrate unfurls a vast geography impossible for a strictly photographic vision to encompass. Nitrate takes the form of an essay that explores the political and geological history of Chile, linking it with flows of finance and consumption in Europe, in such a way that the geography of this material gives form to a colonial structure. The representation of this system of extraction of natural resources that began in the late nineteenth century, and that we now dare to label an extractionist modernity, has called for a documentary dispositive that requalifies the role of photography.
In this body of work, practices relating to various institutions and interests have come together, such as the research in libraries and archives, interviews and fieldwork trips, as well as the gathering of miscellaneous materials. This confluence of knowledges, methods and modes of communication that spills over the bounds of photography as a medium, impels us to consider Nitrate as a documentary dispositive, that is to say, a collection of works that can be read both as an interrelated whole and autonomously. Most of the works comprising Nitrate include the photographic image alongside archival images, data, reports, news items, inventories, lists and even objects, proof that the documentary dispositive can take any form except that of a photographic genre tending to fixate meaning."