cuprum n. Late Latin contraction of Latin Cyprium (aes,), “Cyprian (metal)” from Greek Kyprios “Cyprus”, the island where copper was mined in classical times.

Copper was first used by humans as a substitute for stone in the Neolithic era and was the first metal to be cast in moulds when metallurgy emerged in Mesopotamia around 4000 BC. Valued for its soft warm glow and ruddy patina, its unusually high ductility and conductivity, and its role in the production of versatile alloys like bronze and brass, copper is also present in all living organisms as a trace dietary mineral essential to the functioning of the respiratory system.

Used for millennia in the production of mirrors, copper as an element is associated with Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of sexual love and beauty, and with both the planet and the goddess Venus in classical Roman mythology. As one of the seven planetary elements in alchemy, copper retained these associations in the medieval period, and they survive today embedded in the hermetic tradition. Copper as a grounding-purifying agent and energy-conductor linking the inside to the outside, the lower to the upper body/spheres remains a staple of Theosophical and Anthroposophical belief and practice. In Waldorf schools, hand-held copper balls and rods are integral to Eurythmy Movement training designed to enhance creative ideation, balance, dexterity and focus.

CUPRUM -a ground purifying ritual was enacted inside Ferrotopia, Atelier Van Lieshout’s pop-up museum installed from April 2 to December 2, 2018, at the NDSM art space on what was formerly a commercial ship-building yard in Noord-Amsterdam. The piece was assembled and performed on the dirt-bed of the Ferrotopia foundry building on the evening of November 30th,2018.

The pumping sound of an amplified heartbeat… green soap bubbling in a cauldron ….  the clang of hammered copper… the heat and smell of fire.

CUPRUM: performance, avondexpeditie Ferrotopia NDSM, curated by Rieke Vos, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, November 30, 2018.

Photography: Victoria Ushkanova