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Invisible Pegaso is a collaboration with the biologist Andrés Yarzábal in the frame of the Universidad Católica Cuenca art residency curated by Katia Cazar and organised by Gemma Rosas.

The project begins with a journey to the Chimborazo Glacier in Ecuador and unfolds as an interactive immersive installation centered around the biolixiviation of electronic waste using the glacier’s pure water. This process creates a small replica of the ancient volcano, coated with copper extracted from the bacteria involved in the biolixiviation.


“Invisible Pegaso” delves into a critical analysis of the possible, the visible and invisible, the states of matter, and the impact of humans on a universal scale, or what we could already call the Solarcene. The project approaches, from both an artistic and scientific standpoint, a sustainable and biotechnological approach to life beyond planet Earth, emphasizing continuous biological and chemical collaboration in its development and questioning current colonialist systems through the use of technology.

As a starting point, the significant issue of space debris and biological contamination caused by human activity beyond the Karman Line (citation) is analyzed, and its impact on the surface of our current planet is discussed.

For this purpose, the project focuses on a very specific location on Earth; the extinct volcano and now glacier Chimborazo in Ecuador, which symbolically connects with the largely unsuccessful space missions launched by the country, highlighting the announced problem and the concept of “progress.”

Scientifically, the work “Invisible Pegasus” proposes the possibility of using extremophilic organisms as an “extraterrestrial” alternative to degrade the space debris surrounding us. This debris, invisible during the day, reveals itself in the form of stars in the night sky, turning our sky into the irrefutable vault of a new space-logical era where our footprint manifests with a certain lack of control, improvisation, and threat.

The artwork is poetically materialized through a process of bioleaching of electronic waste such as PCBs, USB memories, and others, submerged with the bioleaching solution in water directly extracted from the Chimborazo glacier, simulating the tradition of ice extraction from the Chimborazo province, now practiced literally by only one person.

This extraction process of copper from electronic waste or WEEE (Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment) allows the artist to create two artistic materials. Firstly, the black pigment-color of the Solarcene, a pigment with a bluish color under the visible light spectrum, but “black” under ultraviolet light, used for the creation of a series of graphic works. Secondly, the raw material for metal painting through the hydrolysis and solidification of the suspended copper, which becomes part of the final layer of a series of micro-sculptures that recreate the glacier itself and speak of its own evolution.

The work unfolds as a real-time installation in which the bioleaching and metal painting process occurs in front of the attending public, in what could be called a symbolic-poetic and electronic-alchemical recycling center that transforms electronic waste literally into artistic media.

The project also has an important social focus due to its informative nature about a problem that is already understood as critical (the management of space debris and electronic waste in our nearby ecosystem and its release of heavy metals into seas, rivers, and lands), seeing biology and chemistry themselves as sustainable allies.

Keywords: space debris, biolixiviation, sustainability, real time, metal painting, microperformativity, concept art.

Chat GPT says:

That sounds like a fascinating and innovative project! Let’s break down the different components and steps involved:

  1. Travel to Chimborazo Glacier (Ecuador):

    • Chimborazo is an excellent choice due to its significance as the closest point on Earth to outer space, as well as its ecological importance.
    • The journey to the glacier could be documented, providing context for the immersive installation and highlighting the environmental challenges facing such areas.
  2. Interactive Immersive Installation:

    • This could take place in a gallery, museum, or other public space where people can engage with the project.
    • The installation would incorporate elements such as visuals, sounds, and perhaps even temperature changes to immerse participants in the experience.
  3. Biolixiviation of Electronic Waste:

    • Biolixiviation is a process that uses bacteria to extract metals from ores or electronic waste.
    • In this project, electronic waste would be collected and processed using this method.
    • The pure water from the glacier could be used in the biolixiviation process, highlighting the connection between environmental resources and innovative technologies.
  4. Creating a Small Replica of Chimborazo Volcano:

    • The copper extracted from the biolixiviation process could be used to create a small-scale replica of the Chimborazo volcano.
    • This replica could serve as a visual representation of the intersection between natural resources, technology, and art.
  5. Educational and Environmental Awareness:

    • Throughout the installation, there could be informational displays or guided tours explaining the processes involved in biolixiviation, the environmental significance of glaciers like Chimborazo, and the impact of electronic waste on the environment.
    • The project could also highlight the importance of sustainable practices and innovative solutions for tackling environmental challenges.

Overall, this project has the potential to spark conversation, raise awareness, and inspire action around issues of environmental conservation, technological innovation, and artistic expression.

Play Video

The project begins with the ascent to the Chimborazo volcano.

A very special place on planet Earth. It is the closest place to the sun, it was a former volcano and now it is a decomposing glacier.

The artist accompanies the “Último Hielero del Chimborazo”, recreating the path that local communities have been following since colonization in an act of empathy with history and respect for the local.

Currently, Juan sells each block of ice for just 5 dollars in local markets in Riobamba. The ice is used to make juices, cocktails, and ice creams.

During the ice extraction process (Juan usually climbs the mountain about twice a week), there are ice remains that melt on the mountain slope. These are the remains that the artist and the scientist take for their research in the laboratory and as part of the Invisible Pegaso installation.

The action metaphorically symbolizes an ascent to the highest point on Earth to try to grasp with our hands that space debris that orbits over our heads. Faced with this impossibility, the artist collects remnants of 6,000-year-old ice (fossil ice), which will be the ideal breeding ground for communities of bacteria capable of recycling metals embedded in electronic waste, mainly the coveted copper.

One of the purposes of the project is to analyze the biochemical composition of fossil water and assess it as an optimal medium for extremophilic bacteria, as well as to estimate the presence of bacteria.

Preliminary laboratory results yield very interesting data about the ice composition (a significant portion of encapsulated oxygen over time) and with a high mineral content that notably facilitated the growth our extremophilic bacteria:  Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans – Leptospirillum ferrooxidans.

Andres Yarzábal with the 6.000 years block of ice in the Laboratory at Universidad Católica de Cuenca. Marzo, 2024.
Play Video

Microscope view from Chimborazo ice melting. Speed: 100x

Play Video

Bacteria in Chimborazo water.

3D printed model.

Conductive painting.


The process of “poetic alchemy” concludes with the application of electroplating techniques of the copper obtained in bioleaching (process of copper release in electronic waste materials by bacteria) on scale models of the volcano itself.

Andres Yarzábal with the 6.000 years block of ice in the Laboratory at Universidad Católica de Cuenca. Marzo, 2024.

Bale of straw and PCB (Printed Circuit Board).

Bale of copper and signed 5-dollar bill.


Ice plays an important role in the planet’s ecosystems, and like any precious natural resource, it has been historically economized. In this artwork, the artist recycles the material used by Juan Ushca, son-in-law of Baltazar Ushca, considered the “last ice merchant of Chimborazo,” to wrap the ice blocks and reinterprets it in an act that pays homage to this tradition and century-long effort. Once again, the visible and the invisible are played with. The bale made of natural straw contains a series of PCBs inside, from which their copper has not yet been recovered. As for the other bale, made to simulate the original technique used by the ice merchants but using copper wire, the artist has inserted a signed 5-dollar bill, the current selling price of these ice blocks.

Digital printing on aluminum composite panel.

Copper adhered through “electro painting.”
Images that play with reality (documentation of the journey) and the possible fiction thanks to artificial intelligence.
Microscopic views of Leptospirillum ferrooxidans – Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans (the bacteria used in the installation), images created with artificial intelligence on real images from the Chimborazo journey, traces from the Pegaso satellite at the time of the mountain visit, and painting with recycled copper dissolved in glacier water on the surface of the image. The result is a confusing landscape about the future of a geological era that went from volcanic to glacial and that could literally return to the age of metals, in this case, in the form of electronic waste deposited in aquifers, glaciers, natural environments, and even the sky. A visually polluted sky by the thousands of satellites that already obscure the stars of the past.


Antigua Capilla, Museo de la Medicina. Cuenca. Ecuador.


Produced in residency at Universidad Católica de Cuenca, Ecuador
with Andrés Yarzábal.

  • Curated by Katya Cazar.
  • Coordination by Gemma Rosas, Juan Diego Chica - Técnico Área de Cultura.
  • Gabriel Juca - Camera and Dron.
  • Pablo Sarmiento - Photography and Sound
  • Solimán López- Photography, Graphic Design and Video.
  • Renato Zamora Arízaga - Original music landscape.
  • Paul Raguete - Electroplatting support (IFT-Pole De Vinci, Paris)

Special thanks to:

Juan Ushca, Baltasar Ushca, Carmita Uscha, Rodrigo Donoso, Dra. Jazmín Salazar, Orellana , Dr. Carlos Matovelle Bustos, Dra. Paola Orellana Bravo, Dr. Carlos Andrade Tacurí , B.F. Stalin Masabanda, Dr. Rodrigo Caroca, Dra. Paulina Aguirre, Dr. Orlando Álvarez Llamoza, Dr. Diego Andrade Campoverde, Dr. Santiago Reinoso, Gabriel Yarzábal Buela, Renato Zamora Arízaga, Dra. Mayu Santacruz, Paula Delgado, Juan Diego Chica, Gemma Rosas Calbó.