The work Imaginary Atlas is composed by different installations based on the socio historical topics, juxtaposing the colonial acquisition of territory, the installation of euro-centric values and political organizations; and the import of crops, which are intensively cultivated for exportation with the experience and perspective of colonial history of indigenous population and their description of the territories and plants within.
Inspired by the book of Italian anthropologist Emanuela Guano (Professor of Urban Anthropology at Georgia State University, USA), Imaginando Buenos Aires, recently published in Italy, the art works have a deeper look into consequences of colonialism in rural areas, especially in Patagonian Desert. The desert was considered an empty space, functional to the new big cities like Buenos Aires and to the new settlements of European Colonists. Still now the deserts are often considered by European culture as empty spaces, harsh and hostile ambients in which every life struggles to survive, and mapped as flat and empty areas between countries.
How has European mentality influenced and changed the rural areas such as the desert? Which are the affections on the identity of local populations by exploitation of those areas in terms of agriculture, water, resources, minerals, and so on? Is it still possible to rethink and re-imagine the spaces, which are deeply altered by colonial history?
The area and the village of Contralmirante Cordero is such a space, where is possible to find stratifications of processes containing the main contemporary topics discussed in art and sociology, such as: Colonialism and Post Colonialism (historical occupation of the desert with the so called “conquest of desert” and the contemporary process of territorial and cultural regaining by indigenous peoples); Anthropic Trasformation of the landscape (the construction of the Ballestrer Dam on the Rio Neuquen and the transformation of the desert in an agricultural valley); Globalisation Process (monoculture of apples and pears with exportation all over the world, Argentina is the first exporter of pears and the fifth exporter of apples in the world); Post Globalisation Crisis (lowering the purchase prices, increasing of the cost of chemical fertilizers) and finally the Exploitation of Raw Materials and Ecological Consequences (oil extraction by fracking system in the desert operated by the Multinationals like Apache, YPF and Chevron).
Contralmirante Cordero: The origins of the history of this locality go back to the year 1884. At that time, Rear Admiral Bartolomé Cordero acquired 4,000 hectares of fields in the area. They were given to him as payment for his work in the Argentine Navy of which he exerted the command between 1884 and 1886. The rear admiral did not get to usufruct the lands in life and in 1934 his descendants founded the present town grouped in the Company Colonia Cordero.
The Conques of the Desert: The Conquest of the Desert was the military campaign carried out by the Argentine Republic between 1878 and 1885, by which it entered the territory and defeated the tribes, towns or mapuche, ranquel and tehuelche nations and that had as main consequences the incorporation of a wide area of the Pampas and Patagonia (called Puelmapu by the Mapuches) into Argentine Republic. Until that moment Patagonia was dominated by the overcrowded indigenous peoples, who suffered the acculturation, the loss of their lands and their identity; relocated in Indian reserves, museums or serving as workforce. The facts are currently under discussion and there are different visions, both inside and outside that country. The traditional Argentine position maintains that it was a military action and a legitimate war with respect to the effective sovereignty of the Argentine Republic over territories inherited from the Spanish Empire. Against the traditional Argentine position, Argentine politicians and journalists of the time denounced what they considered a “crime against humanity” committed by the Argentine Arm. Militaries who had served in the army for the Conquest of Desert were payed with parts of the conquered lands.
The dam is located in Barda del Medio, on the river Neuquén, where the origin of the integral system of irrigation of the High Valley. The main channel, which has its origin in this work, covers 130 km, covering 60,000 hectares and ends its journey in Chichinales. It is also complemented by a large network of secondary and tertiary channels. The works of this monumental construction began in January of 1.910 and were developed until 1931.
The works marked the departure of the basic economy of the region.
• Argentina is the first exporter of pears in the Southern Hemisphere and the fifth in apples worldwide.
• The production area represents 50,000 hectares of fruit trees, 85% in Rio Negro and 15% in Neuquén, with some 4,000 producers, 260 packing and packaging establishments, 220 cold stores and 11 companies producing concentrated juice.
• The complex generates 50,000 direct and 15,000 indirect jobs and has great relevance in the socio-economic structure of the two provinces, mainly in the occupation of labor.
• Argentina produces 1.8 million tons of apples and pears, distributed almost equally.
• The country annually exports an average of 460,000 tonnes of pears and 280,000 tonnes of apples, making it a major supplier to the world market. Argentina is the world’s leading exporter of fresh pears.
• Exports of apple and pear from the Alto Valle represent half of the country’s fresh fruit exports.
Source : Argentina Chamber of Integrated Fruit Growers
Argentina is an imaginary country
video installation with 16 interviews, 8 stones, apples
The artwork investigates the process of rebuilding the cultural and historical roots both in local community of Contralmirante Cordero and the Mapuche Community.
The March of Apples
video; soundtracks (Giuseppe Verdi ‘s Trionfal March of Aida)
The video, realized in the apple packing Cooperative of Contralmirante Cordero and around Ballestrer Dam, is accompanied by one of the most famous march for orchestra. The music was chosen by the artist as symbol of the European imperialistic empires and dreams of progress, typical of the end of ‘800 and beginning of ‘900. The nineteenth century was a century of great economic, social and political changes. It was the century of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Congress of Vienna, the affirmation of liberalism, capitalism, international trade and Urban Development. The so-called Industrial Revolution took place, provoking an extraordinary development of science and technology emphasized by positivism. Some of the most important engineering works, that have radically altered the landscape around the world and opened the way to new form of commerce, was realized in this time, such as Suez Chanel, Panama Chanel, and also the dam on Neuquen river.
Genesis 3 (comparing two cosmogonies)
installation of 8 boxes on which is written the 6 apple varieties produced in Rio Negro Valley; 8 piñones, the seeds of pehuen tree (araucaria araucana); a bible of XIX century
The apple is used by the artist not only as an image of the main agricultural product of the Rio Negro valley, but also because of its strong symbolic value in Western culture: First and foremost the apple eaten by Adam and Eve, causing their expulsion from Eden, with the loss of a state of innocence and integration between Man and Nature. The apple is also the fruit of immortality that Hercules managed to win in the garden of the Hesperides; an apple is always the “apple of discord” that, for example, triggers the Trojan War.
The apple symbolizes for the artist the religious conquest that accompanied the campaign to colonize the New World, with the evangelization and the forced cultural assimilation of indigenous peoples: Originally the apple is a fruit from Central Asia where it was cultivated as early as the Neolithic period, then spread through the Middle East, first in Egypt along the Nile Valley and, later, in Greece. Thanks to the achievements of the Roman Empire came to the West and from there, across Europe, and then spread to America through new campaigns of conquest, war after war and conquest after conquest.