Bureau Phi

Killing Fields

Galería Freijo, Madrid, 7 de marzo a 28 de abril, 2018

The phrase Killing Fields is primarily associated with the regime of the Khmer Rouge, and was also the title of a film on the subject. The Khmer Rouge used the fields of Cambodia to murder and bury more than one million people in mass graves. Here it becomes a metaphor of what is taking place in agricultural fields, which are being contaminated by the uncontrolled use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers with a high content of devastating toxins.

Killing Fields is an interchange between two artists, Teresa Serrano and Lucía Madriz, separated by almost two generations and with projects carried out in different decades. Both artists are presenting a selection of their work that alters the perception of topics that are currently an intense preoccupation of scientists, writers, and media: the extinction of pollinators, the global food industry and bio-colonialism. Their projects explore how to discover visuality when approaching subjects such as the mortality of pollinators, due to the faster-bigger-cheaper approach to food production that is steadily draining our planet’s resources and could ultimately provoke the collapse of civilization. The wisdom of cultures across the earth has long told us that nature is full of extraordinary connections.

The works of Serrano and Madriz offer a palpable resistance to these circumstances, while avoiding images of violence and devastation. Adopting one of the ideas of Rancière, art is an autonomous area of ​​experience in which there is no privileged medium: the works displace hierarchical conceptions of art, such as the superiority of tragedy over comedy or of historical painting over still life, meaning that the contemporary aesthetic opens the possibility of discovering beauty everywhere and in whatever situation. The projects of both artists are undoubtedly committed to these issues; the associations and references are deep and subtle, and converge in a compilation of images rich in social awareness and involvement. As an overview of our current predicament, they are insightful works with the determination that characterizes a certain type of art: one that directs the gaze and the mind to what is happening in our environment.

The projects are not related to the Land Art or Environmental Art of the Sixties, but to sustainability, whose fundamental rules are ecology, social justice, non-violence, and grassroots democracy. Some historians have criticized the classic land artists for taking little interest in the environmental issues of their interventions and treating the landscape as a gigantic canvas. These aesthetic movements along with conceptualism paved the way for practices vital to contemporary art; there is no question that their revolutionary ideas about nature and its representation have influenced the work of the two artists here, though their intentions are not the same. The natural world was not so obviously under threat in the Sixties. Madriz and Serrano are responding to a very different emergency.