El jardin de los ciclopes
White plastic tarps in mountainous terrain, differently shaped water tanks, deserted streets lined with abstract sculpted cubes: that is what we see in the new works by artist Georg Aerni. Those who know Aerni’s oeuvre recognize it in the photographer’s eye for things that are familiar and, at the same time, foreign. We marvel at how closely juxtaposed elegance and a sensation of repulsion can be. Rather than sparking aversion, the documentation of ruinous situations and landscapes stirs our curiosity.
The Zurich-based artist is renowned for his documentary photographs, which despite their direct imagery have inherent poetic components, and at times, nightmarish ones. The series “El jardín de los ciclopes” was created in the Campo de Dalías area, which is east of the city of Almería, and part of southern Spain’s former “poor house.” Since the 1960s, the region has experienced intense economic development. Through the early use of greenhouses and thanks to cheap labor from northern Africa, agricultural products are currently exported throughout Europe. The region’s ecosystem has experienced serious, problematic consequences from the world’s largest collection of greenhouses.
Georg Aerni successfully interconnects art and documentation through the often surprising choice of precise pictorial composition, which profits from the site-specific topography. On the one hand, the photographer’s elevated position enables a distanced gaze—the plastic landscape seems almost “antiseptic” from a top view—while on the other hand, a view from up-close mediates the greenhouses’ material quality. Are these structures architecture? If so, is a city shown here, an uninhabited metropolis? Where is the border between artificial and natural? All of this artificialness was created by people in order to obtain natural products to meet basic needs. Entire hill ranges were leveled to gain flat, cultivable land. Georg Aerni’s photographs depict also these landscape transformations caused by humans.