SUSTAINABLE ART FOR A PLANET TOWARDS EXTINCTION

The world is on alert. Since time ago, we live in a permanent paradox, a situation of contrast that obeys two impulses: the one that leads us to keep our economies growing and the one that warns us that the excesses committed will have consequences. Far from focusing on finding a balance between the two, we tend to feed both forces independently. Thus, the two ends of this rope, which is our world, tense more and more until, either one of the ends yields, or it ends up breaking in half.

Nick Sayers, “Coke bottles sphere”, 2010

The Climate Action Summit that started this week has been presented as an ultimatum to the planet. The responsibility to take urgent measures to combat climate change and acquire a real commitment to effective policies weighs on our conscience as a species. Undoubtedly, more damage to the environment has been caused in the last century than in the rest of our history. And yet, we seem unable to act accordingly, to change our habits, our frantic demand, to take care of where we live.

Installation by Maja Weiss in CIFF, 17 tonnes of used clothes.

To raise awareness about this problem, the communication channels diversify, and the messages come from different sources. Many artists have made of ecological responsibility their leit motiv. Aiming to get their speech as far as possible and reach as many people as possible, the authors strive to explore new contemporary languages that cause an impact and call the viewer's attention. The objective is clear: to open our eyes to a reality that affects us entirely, and that will require everyone's commitment to fighting back.

Vanessa Barragão, “Coral Garden”, 2019

Many creators underline this dramatic situation by using waste materials to carry out their works. The reuse of plastic elements and other objects recovered from beaches, streets or parks reveals the massive amount of waste that we are capable of producing and the lack of responsibility by spreading trash anywhere. These actions invite us to reflect on the spiral of consumption we live in and the brevity of the useful life of objects, which are quickly replaced by new ones. The transition towards the "unusable" is increasingly shorter, and everything becomes volatile and futile in our capitalist society. This has given rise to "Upcycled art", a movement that offers a second life to residues and transforms them into works of art.

Upcycled Art was labelled for the first time in 2002, in the work “From the cradle to the cradle. Redesigning the way we do things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Although the reuse and fusion of materials are not new in the art world, what is new is the purpose, essentially aimed at creating something beautiful from the waste and in evidencing the consumption abuses we are victims of.

Olafur Eliasson, “Ice Watch”, 2018, photo: Matt Alexander/PA Wire

Other authors focus on large-scale works that emphasise global warming. The Danish Olafur Eliasson created in 2018 an installation for the Tate Modern in London (later replicated in other cities), where he arranged huge blocks of ice that simulate the large fragments that gradually detach from the glaciers and melt in the sea. The artwork was called "Ice Watch" ("Ice Watch") and, as expected, it ended turned into a large pool of water. This artist, to whom the Guggenheim Museum will dedicate a monographic exhibition in February, has reflected on the unstoppable impact of this rise in temperatures, and laments the total disappearance of the Ok glacier, until recently located northeast of Reykjavik.

Francis Pérez, “Caretta Caretta Trapped”, 2017 Photo Contest, Nature, Singles, 1st prize.

On the other hand, a large number of photographers, and especially those specialising in nature reports, have brought to light dramatic images in which the species suffer from the overabundance of plastics that pollute their ecosystems. According to the UN report on the climate published in March this year, biodiversity is one of the most threatened riches on the planet, and it is estimated that there is a risk of extinction that affects 42% of terrestrial invertebrates and 25% of the marine invertebrates. That is why it is not strange that photographs like this are increasingly more frequent and have become for many authors sensitised with this problem a way of denunciation and awareness.

Hopefully, societies will take measures to stop and, as far as possible, reverse this situation. We must investigate new economic models that take advantage of resources responsibly and do not rely exclusively on constant growth and overproduction.

 

The cultural agenda gradually recovers after the health-crisis halt and art lovers are eager to enjoy the rich cultural offer that the different spaces and museums throughout our geography have to offer. In addition, one must remember that these centres have made an enormous effort to adapt to the demands that the new situation imposes and have created abundant online-accessible content to overcome confinement. We bring you a selection of content that can be visited both in person and through the web. There is no excuse for not enjoying contemporary art again.

Olafur Eliasson, “En la vida real (In real life)”, 2019

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao continues with its exhibition dedicated to Olafur Eliasson and offers numerous resources to understand not only the exhibition but also the work of the centre in the assembly and installation process. The website allows us to expand content with interviews with the artist, the download of the audio guide and the vision of the curator Lucía Aguirre, who offers us different video-pills on the pieces in the exhibition.

"Olafur Eliasson: in real life" brings together a part of this artist's work since 1990 through sculptures, photographs, paintings and installations that play with reflections and colours. Likewise, the integration of elements such as moss, water, ice, fog... put the visitor in a situation that confuses the senses and tries to challenge the way we perceive our environment and move in it.

Regina de Miguel, “Isla Decepción”, 2017

The Botín Centre in Santander hosts the exhibition "Collecting processes: 25 years of Itineraries" which brings together the work of 25 of the 210 scholarship recipients who, to date, have enjoyed the Botín Foundation Plastic Arts Scholarship, started in 1993. With the works Lara Almárcegui, Basma Alsharif, Leonor Antunes, Javier Arce, Erick Beltrán, David Bestué, Bleda and Rosa, Nuno Cera, Patricia Dauder, Patricia Esquivias, Karlos Gil, Carlos Irijalba, Adrià Julià, Juan López, Rogelio López Cuenca, Renata Lucas, Mateo Maté, Jorge Méndez Blake, Regina de Miguel, Leticia Ramos, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Teresa Solar Abboud, Leonor Serrano Rivas, Jorge Yeregui, David Zink-Yi, the exhibition is a good example of up-to-date and young contemporary art contributed by artists with very diverse profiles.

Clemente Bernad. Series “Ante el umbral”, Madrid, 2020

The Reina Sofía Museum wanted to create a visual chronicle of what the confinement and the tragic numbers of infected and deceased have meant for the lives of many of us: a tale of pain, nostalgia and uncertainty made by the photographer Clemente Bernad. This exhibition, curated by Jorge Moreno Andrés, is entitled “Before the threshold”, a title that expresses the strange sensation that occurs when faced with something new and unknown, something that we cannot control or avoid, and that we all must go through. The alteration imposed on our lives unexpectedly is reflected in the streets, transformed into places of solitude and abandonment where life has been paralysed.

Mario Merz / No title, Triplo Igloo, 1984 MAXXI Collection

At the IVAM, the exhibition "What is our home?" brings together works from the IVAM collection and the MAXXI centre in Rome to propose a reflection on the space we inhabit seen from a personal and social perspective. It is about investigating the value that these spaces have as a home or refuge, as well as part of a city or community.

The exhibition, curated by José Miguel G. Cortés, also wants to delve into the feeling of those who feel like foreigners anywhere, because they do not identify with the habits or customs of the society, they do not fit into these social patterns, and home becomes the only shelter space that can adapt to their identity needs.

Martha Rosler, frame from “Backyard Economy I-II”, 1974 © Courtesy of Martha Rosler, 2020

Es Baluard Museu is committed to video creation and performance and hosts the monographic exhibition “Martha Rosler. How do we get there from here?” dedicated to this New York artist who pioneered the use of video as a mechanism for social and political analysis. This exhibition includes various works, from video to photography and several publications, which synthesise her main lines of discourse. Her concern for public policies and the social equality of women has led her to actively participate in numerous social movements in La Havana, New York, Mexico DC or Barcelona, and these experiences are present in one way or another in her work.

With the curatorship of Inma Prieto, a selection has been made within the abundant production of this artist, which presents one of the most coherent careers in towards-the-new-Millenium contemporary art.

Image from file, via meiac.es/turbulence/archive/acceso.html

The MEIAC - Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, host the works of the prestigious international digital art archive "Turbulence", a platform dedicated to network and hybrid art. In view of the inevitable closure of this institution, the MEIAC has offered to host all this valuable content collected since 1996. The uploading of the file also served as an opportunity to restore numerous pieces and convert formats so that files that had become obsolete remain readable by new systems. A huge job of conservation and updating that can be enjoyed online today. The archive is made up of hundreds of digital works from around the world that can now be visited remotely.