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AIR(E), Tormentas de Fuego

El fuego en la historia de la tierra es un elemento más de los que ha modelado las estructuras y funciones de los ecosistemas. El fuego ha estado presente en la dinámica de los ecosistemas desde sus inicios siendo un elemento más de ellos, es el ser humano quien perturba y desacopla estas relaciones.


Hoy en día los incendios de origen humano son la principal causa de la destrucción de bosques en Sudamérica. Con ellos no solo desaparecen árboles centenarios, sino también el hábitat de una miríada de plantas, insectos, animales, complejas redes entre el mundo físico y biológico, y una infinidad de funciones de los ecosistemas como la fijación de carbono, la regulación del ciclo del agua y la producción de oxígeno.


Dr. Duncan Christie Browne,

Biólogo. Universidad Austral de Chile

AIR(E), Firestorms

by Alejandro Sepúlveda Jara


What is fire for you?


Fire is light, heat, energy, transformation. Above all, transformation.


It transformed human life when we discovered how to produce it artificially hundreds of thousands of years ago.


Fire illuminated caves and houses, transforming darkness into clarity. It heated food, transforming it into nutrition. It warmed bodies during the harshest winters, transforming suffering into well-being.


Is there anything more transformative than fire?


Today it warns us of a new metamorphosis.


The transformation towards a less friendly, more inhospitable world. A transformation driven by human activity that uses fire against its noble will.


Disfiguring. It disfigures a world that was perfect in its own way and that today is burning uncontrollably.


Forest fires on the planet destroy twice as many trees as 20 years ago. And 20 years ago it was already terrifying.


In 2021, 9.3 million hectares of trees were lost. Did the fire want that?


The boreal forests are burning, the Amazon is burning, the African, Asian and Oceanic jungles are burning, the savanna is burning, Patagonia is burning...


The world burns as it transforms into what we don't want...


The Earth is transformed into something that won’t allow life as we know it. We use fire as a counterintuitive tool, the same one that throughout our entire existence gave us light, heat, energy and transformation.


What is fire for you today?




* Not all major disasters are the same. Today there are "sixth generation" fires that, due to the great energy they release, have the ability to change the weather around them, generating environmental conditions to maximize their spread or even produce new outbreaks.


* “Sixth generation” fires, like large volcanic eruptions, can create very special clouds called Pyrocumulus. These great vertical clouds dry out the land around them and produce electrical storms, whose lightning can cause new outbreaks as they hit dry vegetation.


* “Sixth generation” fires are inextinguishable for specialized brigades and are increasingly frequent in the world. They go out only when natural factors lead to it.


* Due to climate change and change in land use, forest fires will be more frequent and intense each year with a global increase in extreme fires of 14% by 2030, 30% by 2050 and 50% by the end of the century.


* Currently, every minute on the planet, forest fires burn the equivalent of 16 football fields.


* 99% of forest fires are caused by humans, whether due to carelessness, negligence or intentionality.


* Russia, Canada and the United States had the largest loss of tree cover due to wildfires in 2021. These 3 countries lost 7.8 million hectares, representing 84% of the affected global area.


* Rising global temperatures and longer droughts are creating ideal conditions for wildfires.


* The natural factors that influence the spread and impact of wildfires are:

- Vegetation dryness (moisture content and live vegetation).

- Climatic variables (wind, high temperatures, low humidity, lack of rain).

- Fuel availability.

- Prolonged drought.

- Nonexistence or inaccessibility of early warning systems.


* What is the 30-30-30 factor? It’s the combination of temperatures above 30 °C, relative humidity below 30% and winds above 30 km/h in a given place. These are the ideal conditions for the spread of wildfires, although all three are not required for this to happen. For example, in Aysén a few years ago, more than a thousand hectares were burned with temperatures below zero.


* Flames not only consume nature, land and lives, but also release large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), further worsening the climate crisis.


* Before, extreme wildfires were more isolated and burned for a few days. However, in recent years they have been seen burning for several weeks.


Alejandro Sepúlveda Jara,





Text Alejandro Sepúlveda Jara

         original version

AIR(E), Firestorms

by Catalina Mena Larraín


Denise Lira-Ratinoff's work is related to Installation Art as a language that enables sensory experiences without being subjected to rational logic. The artist conceives the audience as participating subjects whose perception comes into dialogue and completes the artwork. Her production seeks to challenge emotion and thought, using direct and intense stimuli that capture sight, touch and hearing. Her work says: If you want to know something, you have to experience it.


Her conceptual line (her move would be a more precise term) has found a radicalness and strength in the last 15 years, when she herself began to undergo experiences of deep contact with nature, carrying out highly physically demanding explorations of glaciers, deserts, forests and seas, entering the landscape to extract images and sounds that were processed by her own body. At that point she adopted, as a matter of urgency, the commitment to create art aimed at making visible the environmental crisis and the self-destructive violence of economic rationality.


From an existential stance, the artist deems the work of art as the creation of a language that questions critical consciousness, devoting herself to a rigorous and committed craft, researching and creating new aesthetic and technological forms to experience the danger in which the planet finds itself.


The idea of immersion runs through all of her works. They seek to immerse the audience in a visual and conceptual landscape which moves them. And she pulls this off.


It is no longer a matter of authorship or presenting the exacerbated subjectivity of the artist, but rather art as a place from which to create a utopian horizon, despite conveying an apocalyptic message. Intellectual pessimism, but at the same time pragmatic optimism. Denise recovers the belief – lost from time to time – that art is capable to transform psychic, social and political structures, to the extent that it appeals to deeper and more encompassing levels of perception. The problem is that we are bursting with information about the climate crisis, global warming, deforestation, pollution, extinction, and yet, we continue to live as if this didn’t happen: we do not want to see it. It seems that we defend ourselves from the deafening noise of the media. It is there, at that point of disconnection, that she conducts her creative gesture, proposing poetic languages that restore the ties between body, space, time and consciousness.


The political commitment of the artwork materializes in a production system where art and life are inextricably connected. She, together with her husband Patricio Aguilar – with a background in stage and cinema – have set up a true factory of experiences, to which they devote all their time and resources. There is no need to ask them how they do it in order to see that they are involved in a radical move: it is a matter of life and death.


AIE(R) Firestorms speaks of a terrifying phenomenon: right now, as you read this text, large areas of the Earth's surface are being consumed by flames. These are not localized fires or the burning of a forest, a building or a neighborhood, but rather hurricanes of fire that expand uncontrollably, beyond objects, feeding on the winds and high temperatures, and reaching heights over 600 feet tall.


Her work wants to be an alarm call that pierces our defenses. The main piece is made of fire as visual material. For several days, using different technical resources, the couple produced fire actions that were filmed with top-of-the-line cameras. These images are complemented by various soundscapes, compositions created with sounds captured in lands and oceans, manifesting the sounds of nature.


In this film, where the visual material is fire, Denise's body can be seen catching fire, in a performative action that takes on the character of a sacrifice. Putting the body on the line, offering the body, perhaps it’s the only meaningful way to speak.


Distancing itself from a documentary record and a linear narrative, this work is presented as an ongoing situation. It is an abstract image, in continuous movement and transformation, which places us at the crossroads between what is sublime and terrible. Heraclitus conceptualized fire as an element that must destroy in order to renew. Alchemy and other mystical traditions have also understood the value of fire as an agent of metamorphosis and purification. AIE(R) Firestorms, is a work that is introduced into the body, affirming the desire for an art that takes the bond with others to the extreme.


Catalina Mena Larraín,

Crítica de Arte

Text Catalina Mena Larraín

         original version

Fuego en el mundo

La imagen de la NASA que muestra en tiempo real los incendios que están

sucediendo alrededor del planeta, también es una imagen de nosotros mismos.

Porque ese cuerpo en llamas es nuestro cuerpo. Todo lo que sucede

ahí, simultáneamente, está ocurriendo en todos los seres que integramos

ese orden, en todos los planos de la existencia. Lo que nace, lo que muere, lo

que se trasforma se manifiesta en cada uno de nosotros. Y en esa simbiosis

podemos herirnos y nutrirnos, dependiendo de un tejido sutil y poderoso

que sostiene la vida, que es la consciencia de pertenecer a un pulso común,

vibrante y creativo.

El ser humano puede vislumbrar o sentir en sí mismo sus zonas rojas incendiarias

y también sus zonas verdes sensibles y fértiles. Cada uno de nuestros

actos y decisiones son motivados por esa condición aparentemente contradictoria.

Somos fuego y somos bosques. Y el planeta ha existido en la medida

que ambos aspectos se acompasan y se equilibran orgánicamente. Pero

como especie hemos perdido la mesura dialogante para evolucionar. Hemos

súper valorado el poder de nuestro fuego; la pasión desmedida transformada

en ambición y la fuerza descontrolada por poseer y dominar. Y hemos

abandonado las inteligencias sutiles como la contemplación que es la que

nos enraiza a la Naturaleza. Esa pasión humana se ha alimentado de sí misma

transformándose en un huracán de fuego enajenado que arrasa despiadadamente

con ese otro aspecto de nosotros mismos como el Amor. El AIR(E)

que contempla todo.

El desequilibrio de nosotros mismos lo estamos viendo en el espejo de nuestro

planeta. La llama vital que nos da luz y calor se ha vuelto un incendio

furibundo que sólo puede apaciguar si somos capaces de revitalizar el sentimiento.

La urgencia se calma con el cuidado, con la atención del dolor y con

la esperanza de sanar.

Magdalena Salazar Preece,


AIR(E), Tormentas de Fuego

Durante la época del paleolítico superior, en que la humanidad vive los últimos momentos

del período glacial, donde el clima se calienta y los hielos comienzan a retroceder-

en Altamira, España, se da lugar a la primera instalación inmersiva de la

historia del arte.

En aquellas cuevas, el hombre crea sus pinturas en medio de rituales, donde según

investigaciones, las características del espacio, el sonido y su resonancia, sitúan tanto

al protagonista como al espectador en un estado alterado de umbral.

Hoy, en pleno Antropoceno, época en que las actividades del hombre provocan

cambios biológicos y geofísicos a escala mundial, Denise Lira Ratinoff, artista y activista, nos convoca en su arquitectura expositiva para, a través de una instalación inmersiva,

exacerbar nuestra percepción y dar cuenta sobre la pérdida de control de los seres

humanos sobre el planeta.

Como el fuego sobre su cuerpo, esta obra no pretende ser un simulacro. La urgencia

está en marcha! Danza frente a nuestros ojos, canta, aúlla y suplica en nuestros oídos.

Al igual que en la cueva de Altamira, la acción ritual se desarrolla sobre el punto de

mayor resonancia, el sonido se intensifica para envolvernos y no soltarnos más. Los

cuerpos - artista y espectador- se enfrentan cada cual a su destino.

Si en su obra CRONOMETRO (MAVI, 2019) enciende el marcador para que veamos

como el tiempo transcurre frente a nuestros ojos y cuerpos, con AIR(E), a través de

veintidós celulares, la artista abre un portal para marcar una nueva fase y trabajar los

próximos años sobre los registros visibles e invisibles esta esta muestra: la respuesta

del espectador.

La representación de los cuatro elementos, que guían el recorrido desde el plano

de la materia hacia el ámbito de lo emocional tienen también la función de cerrar

la experiencia y así como desde aquel sentir agudizado, visualizamos nuestros pies

anclados al pasto que crece sobre la tierra de AIR(E). Sabemos que aun la tenemos,

húmeda, viva y respirando bajo de nuestros cuerpos y que nuestro destino debiera

ser reflexionar cómo y en qué consiste ser la última esperanza.

Javiera García Bombal,

Arquitecto y Gestora cultural


Everywhere in the world there are voices that are extinguished daily.
When a person dies, their departure rapidly becomes news that has 
emotional repercussions to those who were close, other times the 
departure has dimensions that measure the level of importance the person 
When hundreds of cetaceans die aground in the harbor , it just becomes 
news disguised as a natural enigma, as if human beings were not 
responsible for their lifestyle, with the cult towards what is 
disposable and for the unmeasurable ambition of becoming rich.
Listening attentively to the beautiful and upsetting voices having a 
dialogue among the large cetaceans, I feel a manifestation of the magic 
of that immense creation, of the creation exempt of religions or 
philosophical beliefs, yet at the same time I can not stop thinking of 
the cruel legacy of the human race.
Standing next to the ocean I think of how we, as humanity, are dumping 
into it a totally uncertain destiny close to making it barren and 
condemned for ever to the silence of its magnificent inhabitants.
We get ready to represent the ocean for its painful complaint.
We decide to cry out for justice for the horrible damage that the noi- 
ses of industrial activities provoke in their highly sensitive audition.
We want for this artistic exhibit to make visible the departure of these 
animals drowned in plastic who disoriented keep running, leaving blood 
steles that come out of their ears, bursting due to the explo- sions 
searching for oil.
If we keep thinking that this is a future problem and that someone is 
going to come and fix it for us, we simply do not realize that it will 
be us the ones that will be running away.

Patricio Aguilar Díaz
Production Designer and Director/ Special Effects Supervisor for Cinema 

Text Patricio Aguilar Diaz

         original version

Text Marilú Ortiz de Rozas Original Version

Text Marilú Ortiz de Rozas English Version

Denise Lira-Ratinoff y el Tiempo 


Toda su vida Denise Lira-Ratinoff ha corrido contra las manecillas del reloj, con una extraordinaria y poética lucidez respecto al inefable paso del tiempo y a la devastación progresiva que va dejando tras de sí en lo que es la pasión de su vida: la naturaleza. Ciertamente, un tiempo que no es el Tiempo de las antiguas mitologías del eterno retorno[i], en que todo era circular, y origen y comienzo se fundían en un cósmico final destinado a recomenzar una y otra vez. No. Esta vez se trata de un tiempo creado por los hombres, un tiempo que pretende ser controlado por máquinas, computadores, industrias, y que requiere de combustibles y de cientos de elementos destinados a satisfacer al ser humano de hoy, pero condenando el mañana de la especie.

Por eso, "Cronómetro"[ii] es una obra total a la que sus pasos la conducían, en forma inexorable, casi como a una fatalidad, o, por el contrario, a una epifanía; pues la artista, a la par de mostrar el daño y las fauces de la sombra, ilumina, registrando instantes, paisajes sublimes, que nos recuerdan cuan bello es nuestro planeta y cuánto ya hemos perdido y seguimos perdiendo, año a año, mes a mes, hora a hora, segundo a segundo. Así, "Cronómetro" es una obra que constituye una declaración —de amor y de dolor, dos sentimientos que suelen ir juntos—, una tesis y una imprecación directa al público más universal que pueda existir. Incluye desde niños hasta adultos mayores, personas venidas del Polo Sur hasta el Polo Norte, de los seis continentes y sus cinco océanos, de los que antaño eran siete mares y hoy son cientos de cuerpos de agua repartidos por el mundo, y de todas sus cordilleras, desiertos, montañas y poblados...

Por estas razones y otras, el Círculo de Críticos de Arte de Chile destacó en la categoría “Exposición Nuevos Medios”, la muestra “Cronómetro”, como la mejor del año 2019. De esta experiencia brotaría otra instalación de site specific, “Umbral”, que fue parte de la Bienal de Artes Mediales, en el Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, a fines de 2019. Aquí, recurre a elementos similares: imágenes de un mar en movimiento proyectadas sobre una inmensa caja de sal de 9 x 5 metros, y bramidos de ballenas interrumpidos por los molestos ruidos de resonancias magnéticas realizadas a delfines. Estos exámenes se les practican para diagnosticar el daño que les produce la contaminación acústica en el océano. En medio de un conmocionado estallido social, al cual la obra “Umbral” se incorpora, la voz de la artista se suma al canto de los cetáceos, para implorar por un mundo con más ética y sentido.


De las moradas vegetales hasta las aguas australes

Denise Lira-Ratinoff comenzó su trayectoria instalativa[iii] creando inusitadas construcciones con fardos de paja, luego de boldo y luego de pasto en pleno descampado, cual primarias moradas vegetales que invitaban a habitar una Tierra viva y de un verde vibrante. Posteriormente, partió a vivir a Nueva York y regresó para ir a sumergirse en el corazón helado de los glaciares agonizantes de la Patagonia chilena, esculturas de hielo cinceladas por manos celestes, que año a año, mes a mes, hora a hora, segundo a segundo, se van derritiendo, anquilosando, muriendo. Prosiguió capturando las aguas más cristalinas y tormentosas del planeta, navegando océanos y mares en toda clase de enseres flotantes, desde las más sofisticadas embarcaciones, hasta bergantines de paso; incluso con arneses, colgando del cielo, donde le hicieron brotar alas para ofrendarnos a nosotros, sus espectadores, los planos más espectaculares de olas y remolinos irrepetibles, o simplemente de una sutil brisa que pinceló un oleaje tan tenue como geométricamente perfecto y casi blanquecino, al ras de esa agua salada.

En realidad, cada obra suya es irrepetible, porque plasma, no "el instante decisivo" de Henri Cartier-Bresson, sino un instante único. Y efímero. Condenado a la desaparición, y a la destrucción, por aquellos mismos ojos que contemplan esa belleza detenida en su obra, y no hacen nada por remediar lo que está sucediendo en nuestro planeta. Porque, como ella no se cansa de gritarlo, contra viento y marea: "esta devastación se puede detener, depende de nosotros salvar la Tierra". Y ella, a esta causa, se ha entregado íntegramente, en salud y enfermedad, pues ha vivido por años habitada por un Astrocitoma en el centro de su maravilloso cerebro, el que a veces le ha hecho no muy buenas jugadas, pero le ha permitido una conexión incomparable con el firmamento y sus astros, tal como su nombre lo indica[iv]. Además, ha afinado a un grado extremo su conciencia, los sentidos y la valoración del Tiempo, que se nos escurre a todos como agua entre los dedos, pero ella la mira de frente esa agua y la retrata, intentando detenerla con todas sus fuerzas.

Ciertamente, ella está comprometida en forma visceral y desesperada con esta causa, su amor hacia la naturaleza no conoce límites ni fronteras, y a ella le ha entregado todo su Tiempo, como si fuéramos infinitos, sabiendo que no lo somos. Es la manera en que ella ha entregado su corazón, siempre, a quienes la rodean, y a su arte. Su corazón y su mente centelleante.


Arenas y culturas milenarias

Tras hielos y aguas, decidió concluir en el desierto su trilogía de fotografía sobre naturaleza extrema[v]. Este rudo pero conmovedor y prístino paisaje devolvió a su vida el alma, tras la prematura partida de su marido, de la cual logró sanarse caminando jornadas completas por el altiplano y cumpliendo con su cometido artístico. Años más tarde, aquí encontraría también a su nuevo compañero de viaje, con quien comparte hogar, vocación y causa.

Cientos de días y cientos de noches consecutivas en el desierto, una y otra vez, le fueron enseñando el lenguaje y la luz de Atacama, en el otro extremo del país, en el norte de Chile, y fue descubriendo sus texturas, las infinitas variedades de cada tonalidad de cielo, nube, llareta[vi] o partícula de roca. Estos solitarios páramos, plenos de vacíos y silencios que ella supo llenar, descubriendo cómo el vendaval milenario dibuja surcos en los cerros de arena que parecen obras de arte, le valieron un importante reconocimiento internacional[vii].  

Al poco tiempo, se hizo una amiga, una anciana pastora, Leonarda Colque, con quien vivió intensos momentos durante las largas veranadas, con las llamas, cabras y burros en las estepas altiplánicas. Juntas siguieron las rutas señalada por las apachetas[viii], durmiendo en refugios de piedra al calor de los animales, creando lazos invaluables a lo largo de todo un año, y la artista conservando registros de una cultura preciosa que también se está extinguiendo ante nuestros ojos[ix].

Ascendió asimismo las cumbres de Atacama, todas cargadas de simbología y leyendas, para desentrañar sus misterios, el color de su magma detenido en erupciones volcánicas de Tiempos inmemoriales, pues en el desierto el ayer y el hoy se confunden en la linealidad del horizonte. Y, sin embargo, el desierto también está desapareciendo, conquistado por empresas mineras o químicas; y sus delgados cursos de agua, que creaban oasis y luego salvaban de la asfixia a poblados y valles, a su flora y su fauna, se secan. Se secan cada año, cada mes, cada día, cada hora, cada segundo, un poco más. Muchos flamencos, aves y estrellas de estas latitudes, aparecen muertos, en riberas de cursos hoy solamente pedregosos.

No duerme Denise. En especial cuando trabaja, cuando está en terreno. "No hay Tiempo —esgrime—, no queda tiempo". Cada imagen que ha plasmado ya no existe. Y ella vuelva a clamar y a gritar por esta naturaleza que va perdiendo su voz.

Entonces, ella volvió a hacer fardos, esta vez con toneladas de envases plásticos aplastados, de esos que, la mar de veces, terminan en las aguas de los océanos, justamente, y son tragados por cetáceos y peces de gran tamaño, y una vez que se fragmentan, en miles de aves y peces más pequeños. Asimismo, a través de esta cadena alimenticia, vuelven a nuestros propios organismos. Hoy todos tenemos plástico en nuestro interior; todos somos plástico.

Estos fardos de botellas trituradas, a los cuales se suman cientos de residuos sólidos de plástico[x], ella los apila unos sobre otros, para construir un túnel, que es el hilo conductor de la obra "Cronómetro". Es un pasadizo, oscuro y largo, al cual uno ingresa caminando descalzo[xi] sobre una lámina de espejo, en la que se refleja el caminante solitario. A medida que uno se va internando, el hombre, la mujer o el niño se va sintiendo cada vez más oprimido y desolado. Y se va perdiendo nuevamente la noción del tiempo, pues estamos otra vez en un Tiempo fuera del tiempo, en el que este ser humano que hoy es responsable de haber creado un tiempo ajeno al Tiempo, puede presenciar o experimentar cómo el paso de los años, meses, días, horas y segundos conllevan hoy consecuencias irreversibles para la naturaleza. Ella nos las muestra. Nos hace caminar a oscuras hasta un acantilado, por donde se espera llegar a un precipicio de destrucción, abismo y silencio eternos, en el cual habrán de sucumbir todos los mares, estrellas y montañas. Todo eso se viene a la cabeza mientras uno trata de que la vista se acostumbre a la oscuridad, y los pulmones al aliento que despide el plástico, a ese hedor a química pura, mientras seguimos avanzando, a tientas, por un laberinto de desechos de envases de líquidos y sólidos que nos hemos comido y bebido. Como si fuéramos dueños de todo lo que nos rodea, y eso lo sabe bien ella, que nos refrenda que aquel viejo dicho ya no tiene sentido, porque lo comido y lo bebido hoy sí nos lo pueden quitar, es más, estamos privando de ello a las generaciones venideras, que no podrán disfrutar del más preciado regalo de la Creación: la naturaleza, la fuente de vida. Es más, ella parece mostrarnos cómo estamos empujando a esas nuevas generaciones a ese precipicio de destrucción, abismo y silencio eternos...

Sin embargo, el túnel de Denise no nos lleva allí, sino, por el contrario, a una postal del Edén, al Paraíso de Dante y sus nueve cielos; el primero, plasmado en esa forma lunar, que es la que toma la impactante imagen de un témpano fotografiado desde su faz resplandeciente detenida en el Tiempo. Es decir, un fragmento del firmamento de hielos, que ella congela en esa imagen para nosotros, para detener el tiempo y tal vez recordarnos que hubo un Tiempo que fue hermoso y fuimos libres de verdad. Y guardábamos todos nuestros sueños en castillos de cristal; los que se han ido desvaneciendo, porque este tiempo fuera del Tiempo que construyó el hombre no obedece sino a la inconsistencia de un mundo basado en el lucro instantáneo, un mundo cuyos valores también se derritieron, se hicieron agua.

Y por eso "Cronómetro" finalmente nos conduce al mar, a un acantilado que ruge bajo nuestros pies, trona y sacude los cimientos de nuestra humanidad, en un video coproducido por Denise Lira-Ratinoff y Patricio Aguilar Díaz[xii]. Un mar que aúlla como un animal herido, desorientado y atemorizado. Como muchas de las ballenas que visitan nuestras costas, hoy confundidas por tanto ruido submarino, producto de barcos de turismo o pesca, sonares, salmoneras; sonidos que Denise reproduce para nosotros, para hacernos sentir en carne viva aquella contaminación acústica que perturba y a veces enloquece a los pobladores de nuestros mares.

Han ocurrido episodios espeluznantes recientemente, a causa de ésta y/o de otras poluciones de las aguas, como la mortandad masiva de especies en diversos puntos del planeta, y una, particularmente triste en el bien llamado Golfo de Penas, donde más de 300 ballenas sei murieron en 2015, sin una causa aparente. En esas soledades australes, bajo un universal firmamento, esas almas inocentes penan sobre nuestras conciencias. Denise trajo también para nosotros sus cantos, grabados por equipos multinacionales de biólogos marinos y otros científicos [xiii] empeñados en descifrar el misterio de sus melodías. ¿Serán cantos de amor, de enajenación, o de (des)esperanza?   

Finalmente, Denise Lira-Ratinoff nos lleva a una playa que creó con dos mil kilos de sal que acarreó con su apasionado equipo de trabajo, porque ella es un alma que sabe multiplicarse en muchas otras cuando debe construir su obra y su mensaje. Es tan hermosa su playa de sal blanca, sobre la cual, desde el techo de esta sala baja del Museo de Artes Visuales, proyecta imágenes de olas de nuestro Pacífico central, tan plácido, simple y pulcro, que pareciera que a fin de cuentas no es tan difícil crear belleza. En vez de abismo. Mas, estas imágenes son a veces interrumpidas por otras, por grabaciones de las denominadas "mallas raschel"[xiv] que también han contaminado visualmente nuestros paisajes. Molesta la proyección de la malla, pero luego reaparece el mar, y por un rato se olvida, sí, todo puede olvidarse, por un momento es casi mejor olvidarlo, pero Denise no nos deja. No para abrumarnos, sino para refrendarnos: no es tan difícil crear belleza, en vez de abismo. Es lo que ella sí ha logrado, a fuerza de correr contra el tiempo, de cantar y plasmar lo que la Madre Naturaleza nos ha dado. El Tiempo es un río, concluye ella, citando al artista estadounidense Paul Teck (1933-1988). Para el pueblo atacameño, la Vía Láctea es un "río de Almas", que han debido cruzar todos nuestros antepasados[xv], desde aquella época en que el Tiempo era aún circular.


Marilú Ortiz de Rozas

Doctora en Letras, Universidad de la Sorbonne-Nouvelle

Miembro de la sección chilena de la Asociación Internacional de Críticos de Arte.




[i] Cf. Mircea Eliade, "El mito del eterno retorno".

[ii] Nombre de la exposición instalativa de Denise Lira-Ratinoff (Santiago, 1977) realizada en el Museo de Artes Visuales de Santiago, MAVI, del 5 de enero al 10 de febrero de 2019.

[iii] Antes de esta fase, que inicia a fines de los noventa, ella se dedicó al grabado, la pintura y el dibujo. Se formó en Chile (Universidad Finis Terrae), prosiguió en San Miguel de Allende, México (1995/6), en Cuba (1996/7), donde trabajó un año en el Taller de litografía de la Catedral Taller Experimental de Gráfica de La Habana invitada por el artista cubano Manuel Mendive; luego en Estados Unidos. 

[iv] El Astrocitoma fue descubierto en 1997, y los dibujos, grabados y pinturas de Denise Lira-Ratinoff curiosamente, anunciaron el problema de salud que estaba por manifestarse, confirmando la conexión especial que logran ciertos artistas con aquello "que es invisible a nuestros ojos", como diría Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

[v] Casi una década dedicó a la creación de esta trilogía, desde 2007 a 2017 Incluye fotografías y registros en video.

[vi] Arbusto nativo de las regiones altiplánicas, cuya apariencia es similar al musgo.

[vii] Obtuvo una mención honrosa en el 9° Annual International Color Awards, entre más de 5 mil participantes del mundo entero, entre numerosos otros reconocimientos y distinciones.

[viii] Una apacheta es un montículo de piedras que los pueblos originarios de los Andes del Sur colocan una sobre la otra, como ofrenda a la Pachamama, a sus antepasados, o a otras deidades, en puntos cruciales de los caminos.

[ix] Pasó un año junto a  Leonarda Colque, y la trajo a Santiago, la primera visita suya a la capital. "Juntas vivimos muchas experiencias nuevas, tanto para ella como para mí", dice Denise.

[x] Provistos por TriCiclo, empresa que persigue un cambio cultural a través del reciclaje.

[xi] Uno debe sacarse los zapatos para calzar unas fundas especiales en los pies, para entrar con el debido respeto a la obra.

[xii] Este video, que se aprecia a través de un vidrio en el suelo del túnel, debajo del espectador, muestra una vista cenital del océano Pacífico, que evoca la fosa de las Marianas, la más profunda del planeta, y pareciera como si una cascada de residuos sólidos fueran cayendo al mar.  

[xiii] De Fundación MERI.

[xiv] Se utilizan principalmente en la agricultura; la malla raschel se produce con polietileno de alta densidad, que protege las plantaciones de los rayos ultravioleta.

[xv] Estudio realizado en el marco de un proyecto de investigación etnoastronómica llevado a cabo por el Observatorio ALMA y expertos locales: "El universo de nuestros Abuelos".


The artist’s work adapts itself in regards to what each one of us knows 
but somehow avoids the distressing destruction of nature that man 
generates and specifically of the oceans.
By means of a vigorous and dramatic production, Lira immerses us into an 
asphyxiating laby-rinth that feigns the lack of oxygen and locks us into 
the ocean of plastic.
Built with obsessive precision, the project recreates the artist’s 
force, who is able to convey her unease and her anxiety stemming from 
the evidence of the environmental disaster only through her photography 
and her installation.
The sounds of the whales resembling even human moans enforce the 
upsetting content and sometimes ambiguousness of the exhibit.
There is a combination between accusation and critical provocation where 
the artist conveys the intensity with which she has traveled through 
ice, sand and waters exploring the subjects of the cycles of life, in 
the staging of her grief in such a way, that she finally grants an 
aesthetic value both, to waste and to the revealed natural disaster.
This double interpretation expresses the ambiguity, where life’s impulse 
is shown in order to give us an unforeseen beauty within the suffocating 
climate of the environmental disaster.
The polarity between the silent beauty of the untouched landscapes and 
the relentless bom-bardment of man towards nature are impeccably shown 
in this forceful installation.
This avid hunter, has recorded natural landscapes, going deep into 
inhospitable sites where survival becomes fraught with difficulties for 
the human being, exploring its own extremes.
Maybe this is what we can explore as a subtext in each one of her works, 
that present them-selves as a grand work in progress. Lira, as a great 
survivor, again and again, chooses life to have a dramatic turn, without 
any concessions for her or the public.
Behind her tireless work there seems to be an urgency for not waiting a 
minute of her life in this planet.

María Irene Alcalde
MAVI Curator

Text Maria Irene Alcalde

         original version

Text Gonzalo Muñoz

    original version

In the course of history, art has been one of the most relevant vehicles 
for the human being to create culture, generate consciousness and 
activate the changes that remain in time. This is the reason why 
Denise’s work with Chronometer covers enormous relevance not only in the 
importance of calling attention regarding the subject of plastic waste 
in the oceans; but more importantly in achieving at an individual’s 
level his daily connection as a consumer, with the impact that we 
generate in these fascinating, respectable, magical and necessary 
giants, such as whales, the glaciers and the great masses of water that 
give life to the seas.
In TriCycles we are proud to work with Denise contributing with our art 
in the making of the labyrinth of contamination to which we have entered 
as mankind and to which we have pulled hundreds of thousands of species. 
In our belief that “Trash is an Error Design”, we are aware that the 
realization is maybe the first step to exit gracefully our self-imposed 
Gonzalo Muñoz


To project, Design, Coordinate, Conceive, Elect and Organize a series of 
armed sounds with the purpose of conveying an idea, to make a virtual 
space credible and transmit certain sensations to the spectator of an 
audiovisual product is the vibrational law of the universe, facing 
instances that make us live, love, travel, laugh, hate, get depressed 
and be touched until our souls have tears.
In the same manner as there is light in photography, which is frequent, 
sound is similar and projects the same feelings in our senses. In the 
same manner as autistic children travel on the back of a horse, because 
there is a certain sound in them that makes them feel fulfilled and 
happy, to be close to a cetacean and for it to give you infinite emotion 
are frequencies that vibrate, travel and penetrate our soul.
 From the physics of a musical sound (for example the Indian zither makes 
strings vibrate, and in its inferior layer there are other strings that 
float and vibrate by themselves, just for sympathy) to the simple 
feelings of seeing, smelling, feeling, touching, falling in love...those 
are frequencies that traverse our body in order to reach our souls.

Christian Cosgrove A.
Sound Engineer, Yagan Films

Charming Resonance. All vibrations of certain intensity entail a 
resonance of sensations and common humors; they stir in a way, the 
memory. It does something to us to remind us and make us conscious of 
similar states and their origin. In this manner rapid habitual 
associations of feelings and thoughts take place which finally with the 
speed of light, they are not even perceived as a complex, but as 

Friedrich Nietzsche
Human, too human

Text Christian Cosgrove A.

         original version


Denise Lira-Ratinoff: How does the planet breath?
Nicole Ellena: The Planet is a living organism and the Gaia theory helps 
us in understanding such affirmation. This explains how the Planet 
self-regulates in order to maintain its balance through geological, 
chemical and ecological processes, based on the independence that the 
ecosystems and organisms have. A great example is in the forests, both 
on the soil and the sea, since they are to a large extent, responsible 
in lending ideal conditions for life’s subsistence.
One of the ways in which the forests balance the atmosphere is thru the 
breathing that they self-perform. The trees absorb light as well as CO2 
from the atmosphere liberating in exchange oxygen (in a process called 
photosynthesis). All live organisms in our planet depend on these cycles 
to be able to breath, feed themselves and reproduce.
But not only the trees perform this task: the ocean does it as well 
through phytoplankton and marine plants that perform a regulating 
function in our atmosphere, and therefore, help us stabilize the 
planet’s climate and life such as we know it.
If we could count and visualize all these organisms that work daily for 
the planet, we would be talking about a breathtaking planetary system - 
a large green machine - in charge of absorbing the enormous amounts of 
carbon dioxide from our atmosphere, to deposit it later underground and 
finally liberate oxygen.
In spite of the large self-regulation capacity that the planet has 
(thanks to these organisms) the CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere 
keep increasing due to anthropogenic causes - produced by our species - 
. We have arrived at a critical standpoint where we have modified the 
carbon cycle to such a level that we have overheated the planet, and in 
this manner, this great organism called Earth is losing, in this same 
moment, its capacity to regulate itself.
Camila Ahrendt: Our survival depends on a narrow relationship with 
planet Earth. The line that connects the perfect balance of each 
ecosystem is so fine, that the pressure generated by the human being 
regarding the Ecosystems is resenting the balance in a worrisome way.
Our planet has had very significant changes for millions of years, 
nevertheless not at such a rapid rate like what it is experiencing 
today, a product of the presence and pressure of the human being.
Among these experienced changes, it is appropriate to highlight the 
succession of different continents. Rodinia, Pannonia and Pangaea have 
been described as three super continents that have existed in the 
planet. One at a time, they were witnesses of the evolution and 
self-regulation of the Earth.
In the past a large layer covered our Earth...In those years, the planet 
should have been called “Water”, since it mostly looked like a planet of 
deep blues, with just one continent called Pangaea.
Pangaea was the last great continent that existed 300 million years ago 
and the land frontiers united in all directions towards an extensive 
ocean called Panthalassa, just like in an island.
Later, as a product of huge geological events, the super large continent 
started to fragment... Huge land pieces were separated, that at the same 
time, created different oceans. This event since 1912 has been known as 
“The theory of Continental Drift”.
This is the reason why all the oceans and the present ecosystems, owe 
its balance to millions of years of an adjusted evolution and a 
self-regulating that propels the maximum efficiency to human 
beings...Millions of years of evolution have allowed us to enjoy the 
planet the way we know it.
It is time to know, so that we can protect.
D. L-R: What is the relevance of Phytoplankton?
N.E: Phytoplankton is a collection of microorganisms - bacterias and 
algae - with the capacity of creating photosynthesis and that inhabits 
the seas, the rivers and the lakes in the planet. Phytoplankton presents 
a great diversity and there are several species, such as: diatoms, 
dinoflagelated cya-nophyts and cocolythophoric dull brown algae, among 
These serve as food for other animals, since they are the first 
organisms of the food chain of the oceans, feeding the zooplankton and 
other small species in the sea. If the phytoplankton did not exist, 
there would be no fish and our oceans would not have the great 
biodiversity that supports the diet of millions of people.
The plankton represents the forest in the ocean, that - along with the 
algae and chorals - ,are responsible for capturing between 30% to 50% of 
the CO2 from our atmosphere. For this reason the oceans have an effect 
on the weather by capturing and keeping the carbondioxide.
Nevertheless, the oceans can loose (and they have) their capacity to 
absorb the CO2 when atmospheric conditions change. Climate change 
happens when there is a dangerous build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere, 
attributed for the most part, to the burning of fossil fuels.
At the same time, the more temperate oceans liberate more CO2 than it 
was thought of, since in heating, the carbon reserves stored in the 
bottom of the oceans return to the surface and later to the atmosphere, 
enlarging the greenhouse effect and in this manner heating the planet 
even more.
Scientists estimate that the global population of phytoplankton has 
dropped by 40% since 1950, due to the increase of superficial marine 
temperatures. It is for this reason that keeping the planet’s 
temperature below 1,5 degrees since pre-industrial times is fundamental 
to protect what we have left of life in this planet, where phytoplankton 
plays a significant rol in maintaining this balance.
D.L-R: How does trash reach the ocean?
C.A: Mainly the trash that gets to the ocean comes from the continents. 
Different registries and scientific data have even determined that 
approximately 80% comes from terrestrial sources such as garbage dumps, 
rivers, melt-waters, tourism and economic activity associated to coastal 
banks. The rest (20%) has an origin in activities developed in open 
waters and oceans, such as maritime transportation, deep sea fishing, 
industry associated to the removal of marine products, recreational 
cruses and even oil platforms at sea level.
This is why as Nicole states, change starts with us, the one to one. It 
is important to start now. If 80% of the waste comes from terrestrial 
sources... It is evident that we are the ones behind it. It clarifies 
the path to know how we must continue from this day forward. We can not 
do it tomorrow. We must change our habits today. And I invite you to be 
a part of this.
D.L-R: Camila, could you explain how this plastic waste affects the 
movement of the masses of water?
C.A: Once that the waste goes into the ocean it is slowly collected by 
the water masses that travel through the ocean. 11 oceanic turns around 
the planet accumulate in a natural manner everything that is floating. 
Nevertheless, only five are the best known. Being the largest, they 
accumulate proportionally the largest quantities of waste in their 
Known as “plastic islands” it is worth mentioning that more than an 
island as such, what is found in the oceanic turns are not really 
“islands” as such. The common idea makes you think that there are 
extensions of kilometers of waste floating in the middle of the ocean, 
over which one could walk. Nevertheless, these areas characterize by 
having a different composition. Only in certain sites can you observe 
huge build-ups tangles with trash floating, the rest is water with 
millions of tiny particles of plastic that have been breaking into small 
pieces and are always available to the fauna that runs around them to be 
ingested. No matter what the landscape is, the truth is that all of this 
advances in an equal direction, affecting the natural cycles.
D.L-R: With regard to the noise in the ocean how could you define what 
happens to the animals specifically to cetaceans? Can you include the 
anthropogenic pressure that it generates to the various ecosystems, - 
effects -.
C.A: Nevertheless, plastic is not the only type of contamination in 
which the human being is involved. There are other types of 
contamination that are not easily visible, like plastic is.
One hundred years ago, the ocean had no interferences, nevertheless, 
since then the intensity of the sound of its waters has doubled every 10 
years to the point of severely damaging marine animal’s health, for 
which the sense of hearing is by far the most important. Is this known? 
Is enough known? When they talk to us about contamination in the 
ocean... we can not imagine that one of the most awful types of 
contamination for fauna is acoustic contamination.
Explosives, oceanographic experiments, marine traffic, geophysical 
research, underwater constructions, the use of active sonars, tourism, 
gas explorations, oil pumping (that emits potent acoustical pulses all 
the time, with 10 to 60 seconds intervals), wharf installations, bridges 
and wired turbines, are only a few of the activities that produce
sounds of low, medium and high frequency that affect every living 
creature that inhabits the oceans. All this is part of the most powerful 
noises in the seas. And they are invisible to the human eye.
The noise generates a huge wave of impact. This wave of impact is the 
one that causes most of the damage to the marine animals organs. Serious 
wounds, multi-organic and cerebral hemorrhages that lead to death and 
besides to massive beachings. Another consequence is the temporary or 
permanent loss of hearing, generating disorientation, change of habitat 
and changes in the feeding behavior, reproduction, raising, 
communication and navigation. And given the fragility of the marine 
fauna, the sound waves received, the repetition and the duration of the 
sounds mark the degree of damage in them.
I wish to reiterate that one of the disadvantages of this type of 
contamination, is that human beings can not see it at plain sight, 
different from the plastic waste or crude oil as an example. A world 
beyond what human being can see does exist and it does have direct 
repercussions in the fragile ocean’s framework.
Let us protect what we are not able to see, but that we do have access 
to understand.
D.L-R: What could each one of us do if we wish to initiate the care of 
our planet?
N.E: There are different ways of getting involved. especially today, 
with all the access that we have to information. There are also multiple 
ways to contribute, but I do believe that it must start with oneself. 
This has to do with our daily habits, since - according to various 
researchers - we are living in the Anthropocentric era, a new geological 
period characterized by the huge impact that human beings have had at a 
planetary level.
In order to reduce our impact as individuals we must start with change 
in our diets: consuming little - or no - beef; only seafood caught with 
traditional methods - or avoid them - ; and local and seasonal products. 
It is also necessary for us to be in charge of our waste, avoiding the 
consumption of plastic and disposable products as well as composting the 
organic ones in our homes. Finally, it is essential to become consumers 
and demand that changes be made starting with products produced in a 
conscious and responsible manner. These are only some of the steps that 
are available to us in order to reduce our impact as individuals and 
Even if some may think that the individual action will not generate big 
changes at a planetary level, there are theories and historical events
that can back the idea that the changes almost started at home, by a 
small group of individuals. Later, what happens is that these ideas 
start replicating in social circles, until little by little permeate and 
become established in our cultures.
Besides, there are any amount of non-profit organizations today and 
social movements focused on environmental issues. The majority are 
driven by individuals that are passionate about what they do, but do not 
need more people to support the work they do. This has achieved big 
changes at the countries level and globally, stimulated by individuals 
who believe in the collective work without expecting any retribution, 
other than the protection of our ecosystems and its inhabitants.
Finally, we must demand - as active and mobilized citizens - for 
governments to adopt urgent measures, to reduce the damage that we have 
caused to this great Earth system, since our own survival depends on it.

Nicole Ellena, Director Endémico Magazine
Camila Ahrendt, Scientific Director Plastic Oceans Chile
Denise Lira-Ratinoff, Interdisciplinary Artist

         Text BREATHE

         original version

Text Jose Manuel Belmar

         original version


The depth of Denise Lira-Ratinoff, beyond her seas, waters and oceans 
reflecting through her multidisciplinary eye, invites us to be alerts, 
in wakefulness, in reflection, in pause and traveling snd allows the 
possibility of fulfilling multiple introspections simultaneously as we 
walk through her labyrinths where images that become a system of symbols 
appear and it is clear as well as making us aware of the space of our 
CHRONOMETER Denise’s most recent installation located in a large MAVI 
(Museum of Visual Arts) space, introducing us to a trip of sensations 
planned by the artist, where 1200 bails of waste thrown to the ocean 
will have a key role in this sensory trip, and the spectator will have 
to be fully aware of the multiple elements, each one locked into a 
gesture that amalgamates all of our senses.
Walking through this infinite labyrinth, calmly, not knowing where we 
are or what we will encounter, will force us in a tacit way to focus our 
reflection on the artist’s work.
It is very feasible for our sensations to become pleasure, sadness, 
vertigo, pain, disgust, desire and I will include the wish to abandon 
the labyrinth. The saturation of the elements that go on stage along 
with the sounds and noises true to our nature also invite in a secretive 
way to end this enormous expedition that has spaces of intermittent 
visual breaks where the most important and fundamental part is to 
understand how time goes by not allowing us for any respite. It is now 
and not tomorrow.
Denise Lira-Ratinoff already has a vast trajectory of works and large 
format installations in Chile as well as in the United States and 
The connective thread presenter as the fundamental axis in this last 
work, in a way are the bails, where the meaning is clearly the reverse 
and invites the spectator literally to be submerged in her experience. 
The similarity with previous works and to a large scale is without a 
doubt the selection of the elements that compose this and other works, 
the waste, the recycling, the vital elements, the ecosystem, the nature 
that finally are the components of a battery of concepts that make this 
exhibit a great aesthetic presentation and as a result a vast discourse 
of Contemporary Art.

José Manuel Belmar
One Moment Art, Director

     Text Maisa Rojas Corradi

         original version


The photography by Denise Lira-Ratinoff presents us this narrow country, at the convergence of the oceanic Nazca plate with the continental South American plate, flanked by cold ocean currents, high mountains and active volcanoes, with its fabulously contrasting climates from the driest desert to the hyper humid rainforest of Patagonia and also home of the remnant of old ice.

As a climatologist interested in understanding the evolution of earth climate, this landscape is a natural laboratory with innumerable records and clues, and is beautifully captured in these photographs.

These images are both an essential and emotional experience. Here we see the physical spheres of our planet: criosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere. These are all shaped by and influenced by life through various cycles that in turn sustain the planet.

This exhibition by Denise has the name of breathe, how inspiring and profound. Because all biological processes need cycles, these processes are paired: Breathing is the paired reaction to photosynthesis. Photosynthesis uses water and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and “sugars” (organic material), and when we breathe we use this “sugar” and oxygen and transform this back to water and carbon dioxide. But it is the dynamic nature of our planet, with its moving plates, colliding continents, subsidence of ocean plates, growth of mountains and volcanoes that ultimately allows this cycle to close, and hence life to exists. As one of the principles of climate sciences states: Life on earth depends on, is shaped by and affects climate.

Mountains, volcanoes, glaciers, deserts and oceans are all in constant moving and transformation. Volcanoes connect the deep earth with the surface, allowing gases and mass to cycle. Their shape, stature, colours and smells are a gift for our special landscape, and a reminder of our brief pass on this planet that has been alive for millions of years.

The combination of cold ocean currents along the Pacific coast of Chile and high Andes mountains that inhibit the entrance of moisture from the Amazon, lead to the driest desert in the World: the Atacama desert. In contrast, in the cold south Patagonia harbours the North and South Patagonian ice fields, a remnant of the Patagonian Ice sheet, that existed up to 17,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age.

In a century where the footprint of humans can be found everywhere we look, and the human power to transform nature has increased to an unprecedented strength, the beauty of these images produces a profound emotion in me, thank you Denise.

Maisa Rojas Corradi


The history that ice wants to tell us and we must just learn how to read…

The glaciers that we observe as a relic in some far away corners of the planet, be it Antarctica, Greenland, the Patagonian Ice Fields in the South of South America or even the peaks of a mountain range, were dominators of a big part of the landscape, in a not so distant past, as we can imagine. We can find its footprints in many of the places where we visit without even noticing them. Signs of them are the smooth landscapes in Patagonia or some valleys with rounded bottoms, that differentiate them distinctively from the V shaped engraved valleys caused by the course of the torrential rivers. Just as many cycles of nature, just as day and night, or winter and summer, the glaciers and its ice come and go, where scientists call this the glacier cycles or ice ages. These cycles, nevertheless, are not easy to understand or predict, as  we can predict the different seasons, or the sun traveling across the sky in a cycle in a little less of 24 hours. The ice cycles occur in periods of thousands of years, where a warm day is followed by a cold night.  In these cold periods, the ice falls from the mountains and goes forward from the south and the north of the planet, increasing the ice spot that we call glaciers  and polar icecaps.  During the warm day, just as the darkness of the night at daylight, the ice tends to go back, but not disappear, like the shade beneath a tree that  awaits for nightfall to advance and dominate the evening's landscape. Same as with the ice.

The ice, that in some regions of the planet is eternal, can reach to almost one million years (and we believe that it can reach even older than that) waiting there in the far away corners, where it has been in the shade of this natural cycle. In the last century and a half, that does not represent more than a couple of instants of more than the four thousand million years of life in our planet, one of its youngest creature  - man -  has been able to hold and stop the hands of this clock. They are interrupted then, at least for the moment the day and night cycles, the cold and the heat. In order to understate it better, we have called this phenomenon Climate Change caused by men or anthropogenic influence. Even man, seemingly forcing these hands has made them go back, going back to conditions on earth that we had not had at any age, known by our species. Just like the mechanism of a clock, nature should not advance the wrong way of what it is supposed to, since we could ruin its mechanism. This natural clock has a gearing and mechanism the atmosphere, the oceans, the cryosphere and the biological components that regulate the leading schedule, of its minutes and seconds, in order for it to advance in the proper moment.

Ice has always been there to observe the changes, even since millions of years ago, and just like when we make a tower from paper sheets, we need to put one sheet over the other to lift this tower. Our first sheet will be further down than the one that we pile up. If it took us thousands of millions of years to form this tower, going from generation to generation in this task, we could write down on each sheet of this bunch, what we thought of the day when it
took place. We could for example write, if the day was sunnier than the one before or that we suffered because of the intense cold of winter, we could even describe how a volcano close by clouded the sky with its ashes. This is exactly what nature does on the ice, just like we pile up the sheets of this tower, nature writes its history in layers of ice, year after year, for millions of years. I even write today on ice the changes that man makes in the natural clock. In the ice exhibits that have taken place, that we scientists call ice "cores", we can observe the last pages written by nature. Some of the exhibits go back for more than forty years. For this reason, if we look back at the first sheets written by the cores, we could possibly look back at how the War in Vietnam ended. Glaciologists have learned how to interpret these sheets, deciphering some of the kept stories in each page or layer of ice.

In this vertical book, that we are observing in the ice cores, one can perceive scars left behind by periods, yearly seasons and extreme humidity events, wind or heat, translated for example in the light lenses of eyes that we find in these witnesses. The ice that we see exposed here, comes from different latitudes of the Antarctica. We can decipher its origin observing their layers thoroughly, differentiating its texture and, if we have the proper tools, its chemistry. This is the work that some Glaciologists do, being able to translate into comprehensive words in our language, the history that the ice tells. We also warn that the words that emerge from the ice are worrisome. Pointing towards the responsibility of our species, in the changes of mechanisms of regulation of this system of natural gearing. The evidence is there, in the ice, we only need to learn their language and then we will understand the story they tell us.

Francisco Fernandoy
Geologist, Glaciologist

       Text  Francisco Fernandoy

             original version

       Text Teresa Aninat

         original version


Landscape is a unique sight. It emerges from a clipping that is limitless and allows us to visualize what hides behind the territory. George Simmel, the German philosopher and sociologist said more than one century ago that what enables a landscape to be erected is the image that it follows. In his book The individual and freedom, he reiterates that the artist is the only one that completes this act, which shape the sight and the feelings with such purity and strength that it absorbs totally from within the naturally given subject and creates it anew as coming from within; while us, the rest, remain more tied to this subject and, in a certain way, we still are used to perceiving this or that isolated element where the artist only sees or creates “landscape”. Lira in Breathe-Respirar unfolds like the artist that Simmel alludes to.

Her photographs reveal her gaze, her horizon. They make wild and unreachable nature speak thanks to a clear, precise, luminous and orderly proposal. To achieve this clarity is not easy. It requires clearness and sincerity in order for the objects to appear naked, without feign, without masks. Lira achieves this longed for clarity and she carries out in the utilized method, in her exploratory voyage and in her language.

In Breathe-Respirar she perceived distant landscapes that appear thanks to a body, a body that surrenders to extreme conditions in search of purity and reality. It is Lira’s body that drives her to find her gaze, her cutback, a landscape built based on the sensations she seizes while she watches a wild territory reached after a walk that is an aesthetic practice in itself and an anthropological activity, such as the French sociologist David Le Breton declares in Eloge de la March “since it mobilizes permanently the human tendency for understanding, for finding its place in the center of the world, for questioning oneself regarding what is the foundation of her bond with others”.

Lira walks and, returning to Le Breton, “searches in the path what is missing, but what is missing is what constitutes her fervor. In each second she hopes to find what nourishes her search, what you find at the end of the road, a revelation that is not far from there, within a few hours of her march, further than the hills of the forest”. And what is missing, what feeds her search, she finds it upon her return, in her photographs. She searches, but what she really wants is to go back.

Susan Sontag defines photography as “an interpretation of the world, both paintings and drawings” and in Lira’s case they constitute a visual logbook of her trip. Photographs that straighten chaos, with textures, color and luminosity. Behind that visualization, loaded with clarity, there is a contact between the body and its senses with the landscape, Lira’s landscape is an intelectual development, its coenaesthesia, it remembers the fragility of existence and it is therefore emotional, a return to what is fundamental. The artist stops the body movement (to photograph) and from nature (live landscape) to show us from afar lonely uninhabited landscapes, but alive where we have the intuition that something is going to happen: the ice will allow for a drop of water to fall lightly, wind will blow over sand in the desert. Inhospitable and hostile.

In my trajectory I have experienced how walking constitutes an athletic practice that registers in the body and is able to make it feel alive, complete. In Breathe-Respirar I perceive Lira’s tiredness, her body exposed to the desert heat, the harsh cold of the ancient glaciers, the fear of running the risk at the volcano crater. I observe her humanity, I imagine the necessary pauses to recover amidst the task, I hear her breathe, once again, inhale and exhale, in order to be able to deliver the clear images that shape her plan. I feel how she recovers her breathe, in order to be able to take that photograph. I grasp it building Breathe-Respirar, through her breathing, inspiration and expiration. Air that goes in and out of the body. Seeing and photographing.

The landscape as seen, what is inhaled and exhaled with clarity through photography.

Teresa Aninat

Visual Artist


Justo Pastor Mellado

In following closely the work that Denise Lira-Ratinoff has done in the past few years, I have been able to understand how committed she is with her country’s history, to the point of making it the object of her most complex works by stretching the knowledge of what is sublime. And it could not be any different. As Remo Bodei states1, “There are places where the majority of mankind have arrived for millenniums and is facing them, they have experienced fear and panic towards: mountains, oceans, forests, volcanoes, deserts. Inhospitable, hostile, desolate, they evoke death, humiliate by its vastness, threaten with its power, remind each one of how transient and precarious existence is in the world. Nevertheless, since the beginning of the 18th century these loci horridi [horrifying sites] started to be visited deliberately and perceived as ‘sublime’, endowed with a more intense and seductive beauty. This radical investment in taste does not have, an exclusive sense of aesthetics: it does imply a new way to strengthen and consolidate the individuality thanks to the challenge directed to the greatness and the control of nature.”

“Fear and adventure demonstrate one more time how fragile human beings are - always exposed to failure and obsolescence, always marching towards the unknown versus the known - capable of overcoming obstacles that seemed unsurmountable“

”After touching the zenith, the theories and the sensations of the sublime get to know an eclipse at the time that the balance of forces seem to to reverse: when the occidental world believes it has defeated the huge and horrible nature, unveiling its hidden secrets and subjugating its rebellious energies. What is sublime then becomes one more time from being nature to becoming history and from history to politics ”.

In the final philosophy classes in High School students are taught to read Descartes. It is most common in the textual analysis of a statement by Descartes that man becomes a “maitre et possesseur de la nature” [master and owner of nature]. Nevertheless, neither nature nor technology are the same and we must surrender to the evidence of having no control over the technology, whose auto-reproductive logic, has put in danger nature itself.

Denise Lira-Ratinoff was born in Chile. She resides in her country of origin most of the time. Nevertheless, she is a traveler who’s journeys evoke childhood euphoria for whom the world is a fountain of marvels to be discovered.

She does it in such a way, that she still takes the risk of crossing remote places that arrived “late” into History, foregoing pleasant destinations to face horrific areas out of contact, that still avoid the presence of corporatism: the deserts and the southern oceans.

Exactly one century after the first complex technological attacks in the South American continent performed by the impulse of the British capitalization in the Northern part of the country with its saltpetre beds and by the Security imperatives of the Navy in the southern oceans, Denise Lira-Ratinoff forced herself to transcend the banality of everyday life through distancing herself, to be able to be consistent with the fundamental images, in search of confirming their own value.

Quoting Remo Bodei, “the reaffirmation of oneself in the face of dangers represents a strategy that is consistent with oneself, in order not to be afraid of the harshness and maliciousness of our existence”.

In this manner, what begins to fit in her personal diagram with the universality of a cosmology that finds its place, as I have already stated, between the desert and the southern ocean, which takes us close to ice cathedrals, molded by the furious winds, threatening to cancel any possible return to the City. In the north and in the south, the winds shape the image of its own reproducibility. Nevertheless, on top of the surface of the ice, global warming gives shine to the states of the matter, meaning that the treat of disappearance updates the defeat of the court hero. The melting of the ice is like a condition of the soul that is abandoned, that looses its density. In turn, at the desert, the thirst cracks the lips and makes men become delirious; nevertheless it also becomes a moment of purification and elevation of the souls. This is the reason why and anchorite will search the contact with God through direct light, in order for the god to engrave in his spirit his word, because he is the very first one who writes with light (photo/graphy) to reinforce the inner life.



1 BODEI, Remo, ““Paisajes sublimes: el hombre ante la naturaleza salvaje” [Sublime landscapes: man in the face of wild nature]. Biblioteca de Ensayo Siruela, Ediciones Siruela, 2011. 

Text Justo Pastor Mellado

         original version


Moyra Gardeweg P. Geologist/Volcanologist PhD 


Volcanoes are the most direct proof of how alive and active our Earth is. When at rest they are beautiful landmarks to which much good is associated. When erupting they are dramatic, astonishing, they put on a wonderful show, which is also terrifying and dangerous. The history of both Earth and men is linked closely to volcanic activity. The best soils for agriculture result from the degradation of volcanic ash. Volcanic rocks provide good quality and also beautiful looking building rocks; some old churches in Perú and in northern Chile are a good example. Geothermal energy, a clean and not invasive form of energy, is mostly related to active volcanoes. Eruptions provide new material to the Earth surface and the gases of our atmosphere.

But what is a volcano?

When thinking of volcanoes we usually picture a symmetrical, conical-shaped hill like Osorno Volcano in southern Chile or Mount Fuji in Japan.

Yes... these are volcanoes but not all volcanoes have this shape and certainly not even Osorno or Fuji started their “volcanic life” with such stunning looks. A volcano, by definition is “a hole in the ground”. When magma ascends from deep within the earth, a hole or crater is formed at the point where it reaches the surface for the first time.

As days, decades, and up to thousands of hundreds of years go by, successive eruptions “build-up” a volcanic edifice, the size, form and height of which will depend on multiple parameters. The dominant parameters that determine the form and size of a volcano are the physical properties and composition of the magmas, including volatile content. In addition, their planetary context, or as geoscientists like to call it, the tectonic setting, is relevant in defining how a volcano works and its morphology as it governs the processes and composition on the root zones of volcanoes.

A series of tectonic plates that resemble a jigsaw puzzle, with different-size irregular pieces or plates form the Earth’s surface. These plates are constantly moving against one another and their limits are characterized by earthquakes and often by volcanic activity. In addition, the way they interact along their contact determines a large number of geological and geomorphological characteristics, which in turn influence the landscape, occurrence of mineral resources and even the climate. The plates interact in three ways: they can diverge, that is separate from one another (divergent margin), convey and clash (convergent plate margin) or slip laterally. Volcanism is concentrated in the divergent and convergent plate boundaries and consequently volcanoes are not distributed randomly in the Earth’s surface. Divergent or constructive plate margins are mostly hidden under the oceans, forming a 70.000 km-long nearly continuous ridge system known as mid ocean ridges. The mid-ocean ridges are thousands of kilometer long submarine volcanic chains located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in the eastern Pacific Ocean and south of Australia and New Zealand. These ridges host the largest, although unknown, number of active submarine volcanoes, which seldom reach the surface, with Iceland being the notable exception. The constant eruption of these very active submarine volcanoes is permanently adding new oceanic crust of basaltic composition, drifting the ridge apart and pushing the divergent plates outwards. This constant production of new crust is compensated by its destruction in the convergent or destructive plate margins. In most convergent plate margins an oceanic and a continental plate or two oceanic plates clash, resulting in the descent of an oceanic plate into the Earth’s mantle, process known as subduction. Most of the currently active subaerial volcanoes are formed above these subduction zones. They are responsible for

more than 80% of the eruptions recorded in history, including the most violent and dangerous ones such as the 1815 eruption of Tambora Volcano, the largest in modern history, which lowered the global temperature in 3°C and the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, also in Indonesia, whose explosion was heard 4500 kilometers away. In Chile, two of largest historic eruptions took place during the XXth century in the Quizapu Volcano (1932), in Central Chile and the Hudson Volcano (1991). In both cases large areas east of the volcanoes, and mostly in Argentina, were extensively covered by ash and pumice. A large number of the volcanoes related to subduction zones are along the Pacific rim which led to name it “Ring of Fire”. Eruptions along subduction zones are commonly highly explosive and thus form spectacular eruption columns that rise kilometers above the volcano and even form an umbrella or mushroom cloud. The eruption column is formed by a mixture of volcanic coarse to fine-grained volcanic fragments ejected violently into the atmosphere (pyroclasts; bombs, lapilli and ash), volcanic gases and water vapor. Prevailing winds will drift the eruption column to form a lateral plume than can travel thousands of miles affecting vast areas and even triggering climate changes. Recent cases are the eruptions of Chaitén (2008-2010) and Cordón Caulle volcanoes (2011) in southern Chile, both extremely explosive and with severe impact in air navigation and agriculture. On the other hand, subduction volcanism produces the undoubtedly most beautiful volcanoes of the world, such as Parinacota, Licancabur and Osorno in Chile, Fuji in Japán or Mount Shasta in the US.

As the Altiplano of northern Chile, once called a “volcanic wonderland” by one of the world's leading authorities in volcanology, Bob Smith, is one of my very favorite places, a passion I share with Denise, the author of the amazing pictures of this book, I will use some of the many volcanoes there as examples.

Volcanoes are in some ways very similar to people. They are alive, have personality and character that, as with people, can change. Volcanoes grow and become old. Some are short, others fat, some are very big and some are disheveled or broken. Their form, size and the products of their eruptions always tell a story, maybe a very short life, a simple uncomplicated life or a very complex one with big changes of character or eruptive style. They can be beautiful or they cannot even look like a volcano, but they all start like a hole in the ground, as Cerro Negro de Lejía in northern Chile (Figure 1). Cerro Negro is a 600 m in diameter and 150 m deep crater formed south of the Lejía Lake, on the top of a ridge of pink volcanic rocks called ignimbrites. The crater is surrounded by an irregular halo of loose black dense lava blocks (pyroclastic bombs), ejected violently during a single highly explosive eruption, sometime during the Holocene (last 11.000 years), when the crater was formed. When driving through the Altiplano, it is not visible until reaching its edge, but however it is a volcano, a special type called maar. Much more volcano looking is Licancabur, a stunning symmetrical cone-shaped volcano outstanding on the top of the Altiplano east of San Pedro de Atacama and visible from afar (Figure 2). Licancabur has a circular basal plan, 6-8 km in diameter, which rises 1700 m over its base with steep slopes. It shows a well-preserved 400 m in diameter summit crater that hosts one of the highest fresh-water lakes in the world. Licancabur is a so- called composite volcano or stratovolcano with a single central vent or crater. It was built- up during successive eruptions of lava flows alternating with the products of more explosive eruptions (pyroclastic flow and fall deposits) that spread radially from the central vent. Early lava flows extend as far as 16 km to the west, over the ignimbrites plateau, while later and shorter lava flows alternate with pyroclastic deposits to build the cone. 60 km south of Licancabur is Lascar Volcano, the most active in the Andes of northern Chile. It shows a quite different shape than that of Licancabur (Figure 3), the result of a more complex and long-lasting story. Lascar is an EW elongated composite and complex volcano built along more than 200.000 years ago, formed from coalesced products of multiple, closely spaced, vents. The source vent has shifted position through time, along an ESE– WNW lineament, producing a system of five nested craters and two overlapping truncate

cones (Figure 4). The edifice is 6.5 by 5 km in diameter and has a maximum height of 1400 m on the western flank, and 600 m on the eastern flank. The summit craters range from 400 to 900 m in diameter, the central one with persistent fumarolic activity, more visible in the early morning. During its evolution and build-up, Lascar has had many changes, besides shifting vents. Its eruptive style varied from effusive and little explosive in early stages when it produced beautiful, up to 16 km long dark andesitic lava flows, of which only heaps of rounded eroded boulders remain in its western flank. 25000 years ago, it shifted to a more violent explosive activity and formed a more than 30 km high eruption column with silica–rich composition (dacite) pyroclastic components. The collapse of this large column formed a voluminous pyroclastic flow that traveled 30 km westward, the front of which outcrops close to the Atacama Salar. The largest historic eruption of Lascar took place on April 1993, with an impressive 20 km high eruption column, the top of which spread into a wide mushroom cloud that was drifted eastward by high altitude winds. The pyroclastic material transported by the plume fell mainly east of the volcano, although the finer-grained portions (volcanic ash) covered NW Argentina extensively and reached the Atlantic coast, 1800 km further away. The base of the column collapsed over the volcano and spread over its flanks at great speed as a hot pyroclastic flow. The final deposit of this flow, shown as dark gray in Figure 4, is a mixture of various size-rounded pumice and dense lava blocks set in a fine- grained matrix of volcanic ash that took 2 months to cool down. It traveled as far as 10 km channeled by the Tumbres Quebrada, where it covered the water source of the village of Talabre, which had no fresh water supply for nearly 6 months.

However, not all volcanoes are constructed by a succession of eruptions. Some of them are monogenetic; this is, formed during a single eruption, hours, days or even years long. Usually one-eruption volcanoes are smaller, but not less beautiful. A particular type, very common in the Altiplano, are the edifices called domes. Domes are relatively small masses of lava produced in a single eruption of high-silica lava (dacites and rhyolites), too viscous to flow, consequently, on extrusion, the lava piles over and around the vent. The form of this type of volcano is of a bulb, cupola or dome, but some show a remarkable flat pancake shape. Good examples are the domes T Negro de Barriales and Torta. Negro de Barriales is a cupola type dome located 13 km south of Lascar. It is a steep sided mass of lava blocks, 370 m high, circular in plan and 1700m in diameter with an aspect ratio of 0,16 (height/surface). In contrast, the Torta dome, close to the Tocorpuri volcanoes, north of San Pedro de Atacama is a pancake-shaped dome 300 m high and 4200 m of maximum diameter. Although larger than Negro de Barriales it shows a much lower aspect ratio (0.02). These and most domes share steep-sided walls, partially covered by a talus apron, and a rugged surface.

Chile is gifted and a little cursed with nearly 90 active volcanoes, both wonderful and dangerous. They keep volcanologist permanently busy....and let ́s face it, admittingly having great fun.

Figure 1. Cerro Overo de Lejía. A 600 m in diameter and 150 m deep crater formed south of the Lejía Lake, on the top of a ridge of pink volcanic rocks. Surrounded by a thin layer of basaltic pyroclastic bombs. This volcano, of the maar type, is comparable to the “whole in the ground” with which every volcano starts is constructive journey.

Figure 2. Licancabur Volcano, a striking symmetrical cone-shaped composite volcano, which outstands east of San Pedro de Atacama. With 6-8 km in diameter is, at least 10 time larger than Cerro Overo. It rises 1700 m over its base with steep slopes and a summit crater with a shallow fresh water lake. It has long been considered sacred (revered?) by the original people of San Pedro de Atacama and the Incas, as shown by ruins of stone walls and altars built in the 5916 m summit, used for ritual ceremonies. The name Licancabur in kunza, language of the Atacameños, means mountain of the people of the highlands.

Figure 3. Lascar volcano, a composite and complex long-lived volcano, built by many and different style eruptions along more than 200000 years. It is formed by two overlapping truncated cones, capped by 5 nested summit craters. The name Lascar in quechua means tongue, after the tongue-shape lava flow on its northwest flank erupted about 7000 years ago.

Figure 5. Negro de Barriales dome, a steep- sided small-size volcano, only 370 m high, formed mostly by lava that piled up on top and around the vent.

Figure 6. The Torta dome and the Tocorpuri composite and compound volcano. Torta, which means cake, is a flat, pancaked-shaped dome with a low aspect ratio (height/surface) characteristic of torta domes worldwide, classification that comes from this specific locality. Domes most commonly result from a single eruption and described as monogenetic, in contrast with the large composite volcanoes as Tocorpuri that are built by many successive eruptions.

Figure 4. Three dimension representation of Lascar and nearby volcanoes using a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) that allows showing terrain relief interpolating digital contour maps. In dark gray the distribution of the 1993 pyroclastic flow deposit is shown, channeled by the Talabre quebrada to the west and covering more extensively the southeast flank.

Patricio Aguilar
Production Designer / Special Effects Supervisor for Films (SFX)

Denise is an artist who from an early age has been experimenting her search and developing different materials, techniques and formats in a restless manner. She is patient in her repeated geometric will and balance, therefore expressing her unique perception of meanings. This makes her an integral artist with surprising results.

Part of my creative experience with her, a tireless perfectionist in each and every process and she is always a step forward regarding bending and overcoming, beating the odds, is from the audiovisual perspective in roles as artistic director and other parallel projects. Her shared reflections are highly stimulating when bringing up a proposal, since she has no fear of always proposing combinations of inverse ways in a very productive dialogue, with dynamism and joy. Curiously, a great joy.

Sharing each project with Denise has simply been marvelous. To be able to see her in action is a clear example of the handling of her drive and positivism in achieving impossible things, in unreal times but always available when needed.

When colors emerge in front of her, with a gesture shaped as a waterfall that seem to perform a dance waiting to be is innate in Denise to open her hand and trap the appropriate color, with that perception that surpasses and overflows a logical thought to later apply it, reflect and cover surfaces.

Her photographic vision during her trips have always been a search for the perfect light, the kind that is not always available at first sight, traveling through to ice sites, sand and waters, normally at very unusual hours and that are announced and can only be seen with the eyes that have the proper gaze.

Witnesses of this abstraction, we observe that beautiful moment that Denise offers to us, shares and challenges us with her most intimate gaze with the subject and the form, allowing us to leave aside the rational definition of the work.

I love to listen and experience her questions...What is this? Ice? Steel? Water?
A drawing? An unparalleled cascade of colors and forms in unrivaled harmony in an transcendent message. Birth of ideas... Choices... Harmonizing with this poetic act makes a dialogue possible between the colors and its multiples shades. And movements...

Deserts: coarseness, heights, lack of oxygen, cold and heat excess...

Ice, no longer eternal: quiets moans, fragility. Witness of remote times and carved by old-age rains.

Oceans: consciousness, preserve, cleanliness. Unify humanity. Flexible paths of the winds over the waters.

There is also in Denise's look a critical side, a tremendous silent scream that has always accompanied the memories within her, since remote times, onto an uncomfortable present in order to make us aware of a planet who complains regarding the way we treat it. It is then that the kind of echo of her work is in addition a report on human consciousness, asking care for our Mother ship. Proof of these unique moments are segments of passed times that Denise has been living when she captures an image and at a later date is expressed in each one of her works bringing it to us to the present.

There are human beings that are messengers and Denise is one of them. They levitate, they smile often, they indicate totally unusual time rhythms and they finally harmonize with everything that surrounds them.

Rotates and longer touches the ground...goes between the clouds of a red sky.

As her paintings are filled with black and white paint representing what the soul is in her eyes and how it is contained in the body. Twenty years coiled up with red lines, as a message halted in time. Those souls also float...turn and travel...they also do not touch the ground.

I love you my beautiful Denise. 

Text Patricio Aguilar

    original version

Innermost Sincere View at Nature

Nana Pernod / Art Historian

As a Swiss Art Historian I was fascinated at first sight by Denise Lira-Ratinoff’s personality and her photographical work. The Chilean Photographer’s work revealed an unknown Chilean scenery to me whose depth and plurality of forms captured my attention. Here it was: the immediate transfer of the eye catching moment of the photographer. Her digitally unedited photographs speak a language of here and now. Denise’s Trilogy “Sand, Ice, Water” for the first time shown as a whole, reflects the natural cycle of nature observed in Chile: birth, life and death. The basic elements of water, ice and sand reflect the transformation of these three life stages. It is this analogy to human life, which enlivens these landscapes of her like human beings. Nature is the master of beauty, it gives birth to colors and shapes: Denise’s photographs heighten our awareness of this fact. In her photos our blue planet appears in a different, deeper perspective. Shapes we would never recognize as special and revolutionary in themselves, capture our attention through her work. And once this awareness is sparked in our perception, we grasp the Chilean artist’s idea of reality. It is the here and now – the very moment which counts. It is the directness and freshness of her captured photographic shots of Chilean scenery which attract so many people to her work.

Her being a visual artist educated and specialized in Photography (Master of Fine Art in Photography) explains the picturesque impression of her work: We see a painter and engraver at work, not with brushes and pencils but with a camera as a tool. This painterly background creates her ability to capture the “moment juste” with a painter’s sensitivity to shapes and colors. To speak with Denise: “Nature gives birth to all shapes and colors. We have nothing more to invent, we only have to get inspired by her abundance.” Her mastery of the technical details of photography and of high quality printing creates a unique viewing experience.

The survival of a life threatening disease enhanced her positive attitude towards the world as a whole. It is extremely rare to encounter a person with such a positive and enlightened attitude towards life and our planet. This inner force allows Denise to cross physical limits and to reach out for those special moments in savage nature which her work captures. During the eight years of her work on the Trilogy “Sand, Ice, Water” she encountered many dangerous and even life-threatening moments. As she was a natural survivor in these situations so was she with her illness. From these dark or at least very trying experiences she distilled the beauty of her work. Thus her work is even more important and radiates especially now, as our blue planet suffers so much from the actions of humankind. Denise’s fundamentally honest and unvarnished view of Nature is photography as an art in its technical perfection. Her many-facetted capture of the surrounding world leads us to believe in an unknown dimension. It is precisely this tension which has us longing for more.

Nana Pernod, Art Historian, Switzerland


Text Eugenio Dittborn

original version

Eugenio Dittborn


by Denise Lira-Ratinoff
Santiago, Chile 1995
© Registration: N 95.094 - Denise Lira

Its printing was completed December twelve nineteen ninety five at the Arancibia Hnos. y Cia Ltda., Workshop at Coronel Alvarado 2602 in Santiago, Chile.
I have molded these words and messages through thoughts, reflections, anecdotes, some poems...for a long time and they are based on the analysis of our lives and the observation of the facts that surround us.
The person who will hold the book in their hands, will be able to read the beauty and the high regard that I feel towards life. 
Life is so easy
And simple
When you allow for everything to flow
Next to
Life runs like a river
That flows
Or a mirror
That reflects
And an echo
That returns

Text Denise Lira-Ratinoff

original version



Mar Sanchez-Ramon, PhD

When I first met Denise I was reminded of Giacometti’s Walking Woman. It was not really the external comparison, but the underlying ideals that are represented in his bronze, that I also found in Denise. She is thin, in motion, unencumbered, fragile looking, yet made of bronze, feet deeply rooted in the earth. When I came to know her better this view persisted and deepened.

Both Giacometti and Denise are keenly aware of the fragility of life itself, and they continuously express this through their art. Denise uses her camera treat to Nature in the same manner that Giacometti treats the human subject in bronze. 

Nature and Environmental Awareness

Nature is the subject of Denise Lira-Ratinoff’s art. It is the ideal of purity, awe, splendor, and mystery. Hers is a pantheist ideal, “Nature is my theme, my home, our home, is the cycle of time of any place, nature is my religion.” Like the poets and landscape painters before her, she seeks Arcadia (Aρκαδία), an elusive ideal found in Nature, captured only by the best artists. Denise is in this continuum, but with the modern twist of our contemporary notion of environmental awareness of the fragility of the blue planet.

Rather than exist in the confines of a studio like the Romantic landscape painters such as John Constable, Denise inserts herself in situ in order to capture Nature itself. Traveling to the most extreme locations she lugs her equipment in boats and on glaciers working from dawn to dusk. Like the Romantics before her, the clouds, streams, and waterfalls enthrall Denise. In addition she shows us a deeper spiritual meaning: we must see and believe that our fragile blue planet is dying. The hope is that in the little time we have remaining we will save it.

Freedom too is an unrelenting theme of her life and art. As a young girl her father painted a seagull and wrote on the canvas “Nonita you are as free as a seagull”. She and her companion, live simply unencumbered by consumerism. They travel often and with their overall meticulous organization they have pared their load to its simplest terms. They are fearless to travel to the most remote corners of the planet.

Essential Forms and Technology

A second aspect of Denise’s work is her attention to the essential forms found in nature. The line, geometrical shapes (rectangle, triangle, circle), crystalline structures, and plains of color are captured in breathtaking simplicity. Like Cezanne, she seeks to communicate the truth through the unalloyed expression of her deepest artistic vision. The truth here is a modern conception: profoundly personal, sensatory, sincere.






As a result, this sincerity leads her to resist all temptations to finesse the image. Manipulation of color or shape or transposition does not exist in her work. Nor are the compositions ever staged. It is the unvarnished alchemy of the subject, the light and her eye that makes her artwork.


This love of purity is at peace with technology. Denise will embrace any tool that will help her achieve the best results. The equipment she uses for her work is the state of the art. Even her body of work is stored in the cyber cloud, which she also finds more ecological. We see in her the convergence of technological developments and artistic vision to achieve a global awareness.


 The Trilogy

 Denise has developed a philosophy for her naturalistic conviction that she calls The Trilogy. It is based on the continuum of life and death as expressed in glaciers, waters and deserts.


 The glacier represents a pristine form of Nature, cold and pure. It holds the potential of vast quantities of fresh water, the essential component of life itself. Her images of the icebergs awaken us to the fragility of our own time as we see the glacier die; the icebergs are calved off. Her studies of these floes poignantly demonstrate the fragility of time and existence. Her intuition goes far beyond the idea of immutable time; she aims to encapsulate the moment. The notion of hic et nunc (here and now) is what she shows us. The image of the Iceberg serves as a metaphor for a moment in time. It changes before our eyes. One is reminded of the Pre-Socratic notion that everything flows (Τα Πάντα ρει), as the philosopher Heraclitus declares: “Everything changes and nothing remains still .... and ... you cannot step twice into the same stream".


 The Waters represent the middle phase in the unending dance of birth and rebirth, life and death. It is the in-between phase where we exist in the human realm. In her art, a nagging feeling suggests to us that it will soon disappear, and will become a memory.


 The last moment in the trilogy, the desert, represents the absence of the water that brings us to death of life itself. The cycle is completed, only to start again millennia later. Such has been the history of the planet.


 Biographical Details and Influences

 In 1997 Denise had a premonition concerning a large round foreign object in her head. This inspired a series of paintings: heads in black and white with round objects inside. These intuitive and introspective self-portraits diagnosed a large round tumor in her brain. Once the surgeons removed it, her perspective completely changed, and her focus shifted to nature.


 This experience led her to a reality, a second sight, with a new wonder and awe for the natural environment. The post-operatory period afforded her the opportunity for deep introspection. She had time to think deeply about the essential qualities of life and art. This experience permitted her to come to peace with herself, develop her intuition with a keener sense of subtlety, and then embrace the physical reality with abandon. She lost momentarily the sight. One is reminded of Monet when he said that he wished to have been born blind and then suddenly to have gained his sight so that he could have begun to paint without knowing what the objects were that he had before him.


 After her operation, Denise, like Jackson Pollock, abandoned easel and palette. For both it was a revelation.


She went one step further. She gave up the painting and took up photography.

As the basis for all life, her camera captures a panorama of light. Like Monet, she uses a high viewpoint eliminating the foreground, and in most cases the horizon line. Both artists share a style of composition in which the light spectrum alone radiantly defines the image. Denise’s keen eye appreciates the wonder of sight itself in a special way that is only possible for someone who knew blindness.


Travel and Photography

The British and other European Romantics conceived “travel” as a rite of passage. These travels take the voyager on an adventure that prove character, challenge conventions, and open eyes to a new way of understanding the human experience. Denise seeks to take this a step further, and not merely pass through a foreign country, but to be acclimatized to the culture and the daily life of the people she visits. Whereas the Romantic traveler seeks out what is exotic and diverse, and celebrates these differences highlighting a new environment and light, Denise looks for those common elements, what is consistent in the human condition. She desires to transmit her mirror of nature in a universal language.


Taking up the camera and continuing to extensive travel extensively, she has not confined herself to a studio in a new city. Her studio is Nature in its most raw and extreme state.


at first sight and The Other

at first sight is not only an ongoing cycle of her exhibitions, but a powerful concept. Denise uses it to describe one’s first and genuine encounter with the image. at first sight is a model she uses better to understand the first impact, the visceral reaction that one experiences the first time eyes are laid upon the image. The human world with its languages based on concepts is put aside to pay attention to our intuition and to the power of the image itself. Concepts, particularly language, are set aside to give priority to the image’s supremacy over the human subject. At the end of her exhibitions Denise is interested in the viewer’s reaction to her work, so that she can gain insight as to how her work is actually being perceived.


There is a second theory important to understand Denise Lira-Ratinoff’s work: her constant concern for “The Other”. The Other can be a living thing: a real person, known or unknown from any culture; or a creature, a plant or a matter that shares the images that are simultaneously universal and real. Her concern for The Other is her principal motive for creating art, and is constant in her life as an artist. Denise is not interested in the imaginary world, but in Nature itself. This interest it is always present in her work.


Denise’s images are as simple as they are beautiful. While one may refer the philosophical constructions she has made to serve as a way of creating and understanding the human interaction with the natural world. Even her own biography serves us in providing co-ordinates of time and space, hic et nunc, as we encounter the majesty of glaciers, waters, and deserts.


Denise’s art lies in the factual awareness of our changing environment. It is also a coherence between her life, work, and subject-matter that gives her credibility. Denise inserts herself into these dangerous and inhospitable conditions, the wind, the screeching crush of ice, the below-zero temperatures. The viewer is able to share in her sacrifice and her sense of pain; yet somehow we are also experience relief from such pain.


The environment will continue its march to its conclusion. We may slow or hasten her progress by our actions as we live in some fashion of sustainability. It is clear that Denise’s work has not only heightened our awareness of such matters, but encapsulated moments of history of our blue planet.



© Mar Sanchez-Ramon, PhD


New York, February 26, 2011

Megaptera novaeangliae series Cetaceans 12© Denise Lira Ratinoff.JPG
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