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Mineral Geology of Genocide

research and multimedia installation, in collaboration with Eyal Weizman and Forensic Architecture

english / castellano


video developed in collaboration with Steffen Krammer; research in collaboration with Forensic Architecture; DHAG – Oficina de Derechos Huamanos del Arzobispado de Guatemala; Guatemala Forensic Anthropology Foundation; CALDH – Centro para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos, and SITU Research. 

First shown at the Taipei Biennial 2012

and Portikus


Between 1960 and 1996 Guatemala suffered one of the longest and most brutal of Latin America’s civil wars. During the conflict more than 200,000 people, about 80 percent of them Maya civilians were killed and five hundred indigenous villages were destroyed. State violence became particularly ferocious in the early 80s, when the army undertook a scorched earth campaign that attempted to systematically destroy the cultural, spiritual and environmental means of survival of entire Mayan communities that inhabited the highlands of the country. American historian Gregg Grandin called these successive military operations “The Last Colonial Massacre”.


Guatemala is ruptured by one of the world most active geological fault lines. Continuously crashing against each other in the geologic lightning speed of 33 feet per century, the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate form a volatile tectonic seam line that runs across the country. It is the distinct geological and ecological conditions of Guatemala that organized and sequenced the five-century long process of colonization and also the logic the civil war. In November 2001 we joined the team of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG) in a research trip across these landscapes. Starting from the fertile lowlands on the pacific coast we followed them up the volcanic belt, then through the landscape of pine forests, up to the rocky peaks of western highlands. Geology soon gave place to the archaeology of modern genocide.

The Mineral Geology of Genocide presents this fieldwork research in the form of video-notes that follow forensic anthropologists and archeologists as they recover the remains of victims and villages of the conflict, with special attention to the 1981-83 genocidal campaign carried out by the military forces of Guatemala in the Ixil communities of the department of El Quiché in the western highlands of the country.  

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