_Cutting Through the Territoryy_01/14/22_03/05/22_Dossier

In 2022 we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Galería Ángeles Baños. This task has been carried out from and for Extremadura. This commitment to the region is the reason why the first exhibition we have organised this year features 6 young artists from Extremadura: Miguel Ángel Cardenal, Abel Jaramillo, María León, Pablo del Pozo, Paula Valdeón Lemus and Lola Zoído.

For some time now, contemporary cultural practices have included the question of territory in their artistic and educational agenda. One of the most habitual artistic media is intervention in the landscape, understood as a natural and cultural ecosystem. Such interventions are done by using local, ephemeral materials, and are based on modes of collective participation that emphasise working processes. Apart from their interest in relationships between art and nature, recently the concept of ruralities has been introduced, as an area of action and reflection. The work and thought of contemporary agriculturalists have been established as a key aspect of the discourse of such artistic practice. The character of the farmer, herder or artisan is not solely adjusted to the one who produces food or material, but also to the cultural agent, who is responsible both for transmitting traditional knowledge and for generating the production of knowledge through the rational and sustainable use of resources. This implies the need for a decolonisation of rural knowledge in the face of the hegemonic and normative intellectual thought of the city, which includes that of the visual arts. In the same way, art’s contribution to the creation of new narratives or the reinterpretation of imaginations and representations of the rural should be accompanied by perspectives that make it possible to visualise the work of women and care for the territory from gender-based, eco-feminist perspectives. The use of aesthetics as a strategy for visualisation and empathy, along with art’s capacity to create new narratives and representations of the rural, makes it possible for culture to be employed as a transformative vector towards sustainable society.

In 1978, the book Extremadura saqueada. Recursos naturales y autonomía regional [Extremadura Pillaged: Natural Resources and Regional Autonomy] (1) was published in Barcelona; this little-known volume was visionary in its way of visualising a set of questions which are fully valid today for what we refer to as territory. This is the historical, social and cultural context in which to situate the work of the Extremadura artists in this exhibition. They are works which reflect on memory, migration, depopulation or anthropology. A first example is the installation Pasto amarillo, Barro rojo [Yellow Grass, Red Mud], by Miguel Ángel Cardenal. In this piece the creator takes the physicality of mud, wood and wicker to recreate an imaginary realm of personal memories and evocations. This interest in the earth is made even more specific in Intersección de conjuntos (Set Theory) by María León, where crafts from the Tierra de Barros district, represented by water pottery, are spread throughout the exhibition space, blurring the limit between tangibility and imprecision. Just the same, the video Heredar la ruina [Inheriting the Ruin] (2021), by Abel Jaramillo, is based on research and an archive related to the Valdecañas reservoir, combining image and performative work, so as to reflect on the concept of ancient and contemporary ruin. An affect for the territory is observed in the painting from the series Tierra rojiza [Reddish Earth], by Pablo del Pozo, where the artist uses the pig, as a symbol of community, to create a landscape of materiality that refers to the stereotyped view of Extremadura as a dry and arid landscape. The proposal of Paula Valdeón Lemus, Aquí estaba el salón, dijéramos [This is Where the Living Room Was, Let’s Say], also involves paint on canvas: the artist situates herself in her place of birth, Villafranca de los Barros, as she recreates tales and narratives of abandon that can be read in the region’s essentially rural domestic habits. Up against the past, there is also the future of Lola Zoído’s Unknown Taxonomy, sculptures of rocks, flowers or fictitious fossils, inspired in images produced with Artificial Intelligence to speak of nature, the environment and sustainability. All these works, poetical and political, reflect on a peripheral site within the context of the global economy and climate change. The recent publication of the novel Primavera extremeña. Apuntes del natural [Extremadura Springtime: Notes from Nature], by Julio Llamazares (2020), where from the Sierra de Los Lagares range in Trujillo (where he was in reclusion with his family during the confinement) the writer observes how the Covid-19 pandemic made the spring surge more powerfully and colourfully (2). This was already imagined by the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk in his time spent in Extremadura in 2010: immanence on the ground, transcendence of history… cutting through the territory (3).

Text: Juan Guardiola

• Gaviria, Mario; Naredo, José Manuel and Serna, Juan (eds.) (1978): Extremadura saqueada. Recursos naturales y autonomía regional. Barcelona: Ruedo Ibérico). In this regard see also Various authors (2020): Dominación y (neo)extractivismo: 40 años de Extremadura saqueada (Madrid: Campo Adentro).
• Llamazares, Julio (2020): Primavera extremeña. Apuntes del Natural (Madrid: Alfaguara).
• Reguera, Isidoro: “Sloterdijk en Extremadura”, El País (Babelia), 20 February 2010.

With the support