Thinking like a drainage basin: Lara Almarcegui’s ‘Concrete’
Cover Story, June 2019
Lara Almarcegui’s current exhibition at the CAIRN art centre in Digne-les-Bains, southern France, focuses on the nearby Bléone river, its geology, and its exploitation. Latitudes has written an essay entitled ‘Thinking like a drainage basin’ for the accompanying catalogue. Lara’s project Béton (Concrete) has two parts. The first, seen here, involves the floor of the art centre being covered with crushed cement, gravel and sand. This raw material is the remains of several concrete structures — weirs — that were placed in the river in a failed attempt to stabilise a riverbed that had been extensively dug out over the preceding decades to produce gravel for the construction industry. The watercourse and its ecology is now being restored, and the weirs were recently removed.
The second part, the subject of Latitudes’s essay, entailed the calculation of the volume of each of the different rock types that make up the entire watershed of the same river. Roches et Materiaux du Bassin de la Bléone (2019) is presented at the CAIRN in the form of an inventory, as if a list of ingredients.
The essay is formed around the typographic and the stratigraphic, and how geological measurability made the early-modern world evermore legible to capital. “Only a cursory look at the history of geology reveals that although it may have prompted a nascent ecopoetics, it was also key to the creation of the illusion of the Earth as an infinitely exploitable resource. Geology triggered the externalising of non-human nature and the economising of the world.”
Latitudes has in the past worked with Lara on the publications Land, Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook (2006) and ‘Ecology, Luxury & Degradation’ (2007) an issue of the magazine UOVO, the exhibition Greenwashing. Environment: Perils, Promises and Perplexities (2008), the public commissions Portscapes (2009), the monograph Lara Almarcegui. Projects 1995–2010 (2011), and the CAPC Bordeaux exhibition 4.543 billion. The matter of matter (2017-18). On 11 July this year, Latitudes’s Mariana Cánepa Luna will be in conversation with Lara on the occasion of her solo exhibition at the Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (IVAM), Valencia.