Miguel Ángel García
Miguel Ángel García
In regard to the project HIGH ENERGY
Well into the 21st century, at a time when the world seems to be living a generalised convulsion created in its ungovernable and incomprehensible political and economical power structures, it turns out that man, in a way that he probably had not done during the whole previous century, turns his attention to his environment, to the physical and natural space he inhabits and – in an unforeseen but necessary way – it seems like he wishes to recover the meaning of observation, reflection or representation of his natural environment.
During the two decades previous to the change of millennium and so far in the new one, the natural landscape genre has established itself as one of the central cores of contemporary creation that has its origin in the ancient fine arts. It has probably been about the flexibility that photography and video – at last established as valid media – has inflicted on the representation of something that until now seemed to be the private property of the academic virtuoso or of stylised visual poets of gesture and colour; or it might not be about the technique but about a need to observe, contemplate, participate and to think in the world that surrounds us in view of the violent changes that such an atrocious market economy as the one to which we belong is capable of creating in it.
The artist (in this way, during these years) has been able to, after over a century of obsessive and self-centred focus, look at what surrounds him and discover that it is not a mere space or a context.
There are two essential attitudes that mankind has taken towards shared natural environment in our strange world. First there are those who consider that belonging to the dominate species on Earth, all of it is for their own use and pleasure: the human being as the owner and creator of the world. This is the basic attitude of the ideology of the irrefutable policy that rules the major countries and world organisations; it is about ideas that are deeply rooted in the most conservative and reactionary religious beliefs, normally inseparable from either totalitarian or democratic power regimes established everywhere; ideas that have been able to guarantee that the machinery of territorial destruction will have no limits when it comes to generating benefits (always an exclusively economical benefit) generally in the hands of privileged elites that are used to use, in a hypocritical way, the immoral flag of work and progress in order to impose their criterion.
Secondly there are the individuals, religions or nations that have understood that Earth does not exist to serve the human race, but on the contrary, that it is an unavoidable part of it. According to this idea, man’s responsibility towards his environment is even greater than towards his own body, since it considers that man belongs to a much larger dimension in which existence is based, in which the very human being is just another piece and never the main character. According to this idea, our role is to live in it but always without forgetting that we inhabit a space that requires protection and preservation in order for evolution to make sense, not only that of our own species but of life on Earth itself. The supposed superiority of the human species is not considered something like a free pass to the appropriation of Earth but as a moral obligation towards it, which obliges to respect and to maintain its balance.
This worldview dichotomy is possibly one of the worst resolved issues and what most distinguishes the human being of today; to position one self at one or the other extreme can be seen as one of the most radical aspects present between opposite policies in this world.
One is inclined to think that this problematic is an issue that has to do with the acceleration of today’s world and, of course, it is obvious that since the West embarked on the conquest of the world, and especially since the Industrial Revolution, the triumph of the idea that everything belongs to us has not only been clear but the total development of our civilisation has been based upon it. Nevertheless, if you study Anthropology and start to see the diverse human vital attitudes during different periods of the past, you will discover that many cultures developed convinced that they should preserve and, in general, live in harmony with their natural spaces. Now, the battle between both parties has been so fierce that the former have ended up disappearing out of defencelessness that the arrogance of the latter has created, to the point that they have practically been erased from the face of the earth. The destruction has been so great, that even when you study the History of humanity (the great discipline of human memory), you will find that only the history of great triumphal civilisations appear in those data and documents and that there are not the slightest space for the study of the history of civilisations who have been taking care of and listening to nature.
Let’s look at the simple case of North America and the fateful confrontation, and disgracefully an example of what I am talking about, between Indian tribes and European colonists. Let’s turn to South America now and let’s confront the atrocious conquest of its geography and of all of its cultures on behalf of the Spanish empire a few centuries earlier. But let’s totally switch codes and think about what is it that makes a Spanish photographer travel to that new continent to see and interpret a natural landscape so far-off from his own environment, that is, to Bolivia, undoubtedly one of the most forgotten countries from the paternalistic point of view exerted from this contradictory North called Europe.
The place: the Uyuni Salt Lake, on the Bolivian Altiplano, a surface area almost as big as Madrid and Cantabria together and that during prehistoric times used to be a giant lake that gathered the water from the small rivers of that part of the Andes. A salt flat that is considered to be the largest in the world and that - though it is close to the historic and more than emblematic city of Potosí - didn’t reach certain fame until the Apollo crew, during the first expedition to the Moon, observed its outstanding glow while contemplating the globe. This is how, curiously enough, we had to go to the Moon to discover a particular lunar place here on Earth. The singularity of the place resides in a vision of the infinite and bumpy horizon similar to the sea, but white as snow and cracked as clay. Characteristics that are repeated in salt flats all over the world but here it has a different meaning due to its dimensions.
The author: unusual photographer Miguel Ángel García, who uses the camera as a starting point to carry out particular and poetic investigations about the territory inhabited by man and that he normally resolves by using elements taken from graphic design or illustration. And he is unusual, as most of today’s most interesting photographers, because of the simple fact of having discovered that the camera or the formal photographic outcome is not the final objective: the work basically develops from a rational idea in which the camera, though still in the leading role it is only a tool to reach the final aim which is not to obtain an image but a broader work of art that, of course, is capable of visually establish an open narrative, full of different interpretative windows.
In his last work, In-dependencies, created through a concrete search for certain elements for the discharge of the residue of energy consumption in the twenty seven European capitals, he confronted in a direct way the reinterpretation of urban landscape as well as the photographic image as a base or superficial layer from which to construct his personal visual language. In this work, undoubtedly one of the most interesting projects carried out in Spain the last years on the urban world of today, he expressed a clear political intention when unmasking the very concept of independence through something as simple as the very uniqueness of certain construction elements on our buildings or the names of our streets; on the other hand, he was also capable of opening a channel for reflection around West’s energy dependency on the rest of the world who is providing it with the raw material that produces the energy.
So, it is not by chance that, as a consequence of this previous work, he ends up focusing on a new territory full of energy, in this case energy in the form of raw material, which is what lies beneath that saline landscape, today the world’s largest lithium reserve, the essential component in most energy batteries consumed by thousands of electric devices all over the world, and that is being extracted since a few months back in what is a mega project that does not elude the risk of altering one of the few virgin places on Earth. Just as in the images that came from observing the rooftops of cities as Madrid, Warsaw, London or Prague, Miguel Ángel García has used the photographs of this beautiful natural landscape as the basic support for his own reflection, and it is on this last layer of information that he creates through his graphic interventions where he can bring a new meaning to the reinterpretation of the visual information it is based on. In this case, he draws with a pink line, to call attention to the great flamingo colonies that inhabits the lagoons of this salt flat, batteries that end up smudging this initially clean and pure space.
The result is a series of beautiful landscapes on which hangs, as a kind of threat, a fear of definite destruction for the obtaining of the instruments the world needs in order to continue its never-ending consumer march, in which raw materials are extracted from nature without the required care or respect. It is the recent History of humanity; it is, in spite of the constant ecologist proclamations, the reality that has made us stand on the verge of an environmental breakdown of unpredictable consequences and, without doubt, more than catastrophic; it is the history of a world that has relegated the universal problems (such as the obvious climate change) to a second level of importance in order to focus on economic collapse that needs to keep on producing so that we, over seven billion souls, who inhabit it today can have our low cost lithium batteries at any time, the ones we buy in those large shopping centers where everything is dehumanised and produced in Bolivia and in many other countries we expect to thank us because though they are slaves at least we offer them work and to be part of a contemporary industry.
The simplicity of these images implies a cry of denunciation and an attention call to another space that, as a species, we threaten to deteriorate or destroy. The dominant hypocrisy of large corporations that rule today’s world, as always in the hands of large oligarchies, is once more threatening with great voracity one of the few pure spaces on this planet. Mistaken evolution for speed, today it seems that the only possible dialogue between man and nature is the one established from dissidence or from poetry.
Rafael Doctor Roncero