Report from Urdaibai: commission series 'Sense and Sustainability', Urdaibai Arte 2012

All photos: Latitudes | www.lttds.org 

The commission series "Sense and Sustainability", curated by Alberto Sánchez Balmisa within the framework of Urdaibai Arte 2012, and organized by the Fundación 2012 Fundazioa, was launched on 19 July (info here – in Spanish) and will remain open to the public until 23 September. It comprises ten installations developed by artists: Lara Almarcegui (Zaragoza, Spain, 1972), Liam Gillick (Aylesbury, UK, 1964), Carlos Irijalba (Pamplona, 1979), Gunilla Klingberg (Stockholm, Sweden, 1966), Maider López (Donostia, Spain, 1975), Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (México DF, México, 1967), Renata Lucas (Ribeirão Preto, Brasil, 1971), Oscar Tuazon (Tacoma, USA, 1975), Pieter Vermeersch (Kortrijk, Belgium, 1973) and Haegue Yang (Seoul, South Korea, 1971).

Launch of the project in the Playa de Laga. Left to right: Gunilla Klingberg, Haegue Yang, Maider Lopez, Alberto Sánchez Balmisa, Blanca Urgell (Consejera de Cultura), Renata Lucas, Carlos Irijalba and Lara Almarcegui.

The works are produced for and presented in different locations around the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve (in the Basque Country), including urban, industrial and natural spaces.

Below images of the works as we visited them, starting with Gunilla Klingberg's "A Sign in Space" at Playa de Laga, Ibarrangelua, a tide-depending 'drawing' performance that takes place on the beach on the following days: 19, 20, 30, 31st of July; 1, 2, 14, 15, 16, 30 and 31st of August and 14, 15th of September.
Gunilla Klingberg's "A Sign in Space" at Playa de Laga, Ibarrangelua.

Haegue Yang, "Tectonic Texture", Cantera de Andrabide, Gautegiz-Arteaga.

 Following an excerpt from the text "Stack of evidence: Haegue Yang" included in the publication "Sentido y Sostenibilidad – Reading" written by Max Andrews' of Latitudes (you can download the full text from Latitudes' writing archive).

"Yang’s project, for Urdaibai – entitled 'Tectonic Texture' – has its beginnings and the bulk of its physical and metaphorical investment in what is perhaps the most traditional of raw materials for artistic decoration and representation: stone. In particular she became interested in the characteristic stones of the Urdaibai region – including grey limestone and Rojo Ereño, which has been quarried in the region since at least Roman times. The latter, also known as Rojo Bilbao, is technically a recrystallised limestone which is a deep meaty red colour with whorls of grey and white which are the fossilised remains of rudists, bivalves which were the major reef builders of the tropical seas of the Cretaceous. Yang proposed a stack in which 80 cm square slabs of Rojo Ereño are alternated with slabs of grey limestone. Additionally, a mason from Urdaibai was commissioned to carve the top surface – a square sandstone plate, also from the region – with a combination of his own raised geometric designs and a series of engraved handprints like impressions left in wet concrete. The five handprints are intended to encourage people to touch the form and initiate a direct contact with the materiality of the stone. 'Tectonic Texture' is installed one of the few Ereño marble quarries in the region which has not been completely abandoned and is surrounded by the stagger-cut cliff faces where millennia of excavations have cut down below the forested surface. The sculptural material of which it is comprised originated from the same quarry. The depth of the quarry witnesses the vast displacement of rock that has taken place, and the steady transposition of a section of landscape which itself originated as ocean life approximately 100 million years ago into symbolic and cultural forms – buildings facades, altars and monuments distributed throughout the Basque country and beyond.

Yang’s work is a kind of non-sculpture – perhaps closer to a memorial or a secular shrine – which connects to a highly-specific local labour tradition, through the apparent paradox of a representation of stone that is itself stone. Its form might also suggest that it is a kind of column or pedestal for an invisible form on top of it – an expectant platform articulated through the reorganisation of the excess symbolic value found in the anthropogenic landscape where it stands. The location of the quarry is somewhat hidden within the landscape of the Urdaibai biosphere reserve, and approaching the work in its context evokes a quasi-mystical feeling despite that fact the area bears the scars of modern industry. With
'Tectonic Texture', Yang was particularly interested in this strange collision of industrial exploitation and managed nature inherent in the site, as well as the Urdaibai region’s pride in its ecological fecundity as a new kind of resource with political dimensions."  
Haegue Yang, "Tectonic Texture", Cantera de Andrabide, Gautegiz-Arteaga. Views of the marble quarry where Yang's piece is installed.

Oscar Tuazon, "Birds" is on the way up to San Pedro Atxarre from the district of Garteiz and Akorda, Ibarrangelua. It consists of a bench of Marquina stone with a radio system broadcasting live (Radio3) within a remote and highly environmentally-protected area.

Liam Gillick, "Faceted Revision Structure (Es una clase muy pobre de memoria que sólo funciona hacia atrás)", Fábrica de Astra, Gernika-Lumo. The remodelling project of this future production centre is still undergoing, and will be presented with a finissage at the end of the project.

Pieter Vermeersch, "Untitled" in the Polígono Industrial, Gernika-Lumo. As the artist has written, these two paitings "represent a mental landscape as a subjective mirror of my experience in this region."

Renata Lucas, "El Visitante", Calle de Santa Clara, Gernika-Lumo. The project involved the planting of a Sibipiruna (Caesalpinia Peltophoroides), a tree native from the artist's birthplace, Brazil, in close proximity to Gernika's oak tree.
 Renata Lucas presenting her work placed in front of Gernika's oak tree.

Lara Almarcegui, "Materiales de la montaña Peña Forua", at the Antiguos Hornos de Cal, Barrio de Atxondoa de Forua. The piece consists in the calculation of the weight of the Peña Forua mountain, an active quarry, and the display of its materials in the wall of an old lime kiln.

Following an excerpt from the text included in the publication "Sentido y Sostenibilidad – Reading" written by Mariana Cánepa Luna of Latitudes (you can download the full text from Latitudes' writing archive).

"(...) (Almarcegui's) contribution to the series consisted in nothing less than the calculation of the weight of a mountain, and the display in list form of its geological composition. The Atxondo mountain is covered by Cantabrian holm oak and was known to be mostly composed of limestone, with small percentages of clay and sandstone. Once a more detailed geological analysis was concluded, a complex series of calculations took place in collaboration with geographers and speleologists which followed a 3D modelling of the mountain using the Digital Elevation Model (DEM) technique. This calculated physical volume using algorithms and mathematical formula.The final numbers were then broken down into a simple list of each of the materials which comprised the mountain followed by their weights. This list of geological composition is finally displayed within the site itself, on the wall of an old lime kiln in a nearby abandoned quarry, so that the visitor can firstly observe the staggering mountain, navigate its perimeter, before later reading its geological composition expressed in numbers. During the difficult pre-process to the final form of the work, Almarcegui and her collaborators faced two particular challenges. Firstly, the decision as to where Atxondo actually begins and ends. Secondly, the difficulty of calculating volume in a geographical site that has many internal and external chasms and caves.  

Almarcegui deliberately chose to focus her contribution in a site of continuous change. The mountain is being eaten away through the actions of an active quarry, Forua, which is dynamited in order to extract limestone, a sedimentary rock mainly used as a building material or as aggregate for the base of roads. Some of the limestone is processed directly on site where it is turned into gravel and then taken to a facility 5 km away near Gernika which processes it into concrete. It is in this process that we can appreciate a destruction and construction cycle as it loops: the mountain becomes limestone which becomes construction material. During her investigations, Almarcegui discovered that the quarry is now exploited less frequently due to the “brick crisis”. The building sector is one of the hardest hit industries in the current Spanish recession, and the raw materials are simply no longer in high demand. The effects of the economy are therefore clearly translatable into the terms of landscape and ecology: the mountain's transformation and the pace of its destruction, goes hand in hand with the growing or bursting bubble of the construction industry."

 Almarcegui presenting her project to visitors that joined the public presentation.
View of Lara Almarcegui's site in the old lime kiln of Atxondoa, Forua - also via photosynth.

Carlos Irijalba, "High Tides", Refuge in Paresi, Busturia. Irijalba's installation in this former Republican school is an investigation of a physical terrain: the result of a geotechnical drilling that Irijalba undertook on the parking lot of the former weapon factory of Astra in Gernika. 
View of Mundaka from the Refugio in Paresi, where Carlos Irijalba's work is displayed.

Maider López, "In Situ", Nine different locations around Urdaibai. Below the coordinates in front of Mundaka's Town Hall, designating where to find the yellow tiles the artist has placed which indicate daily movements, crossings, activities that happen in the area.
López (standing on right) placed a yellow tile in the market in Gernika, where Rosario (standing on left) goes daily to sell products from her farmhouse. The rest of the stalls are only joining once a week on Monday mornings.
Another of Maider López points of encounter: this is the only fountain in Gernika with drinkable water and therefore becomes a busy hub for neighbours as they fill their bottles.
 The tile marks the journey made by a boat that connects Mundaka with Laida, saving people from having to make the 24km drive.

We are missing images (our camera collapsed! but managed to rescue a photo we took with a phone) of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's "Regar corazonadas", placed in the Centro de Biodiversidad de Euskadi-Torre Madariaga (Busturia). The piece consisted in an interactive hose located in the garden of Torre Madariaga. The hose has a sensor attached to the sprinkler which detects the pulse and makes the water flow following the heartbeat of the person handling it. The Biodiversity Center is also the info point from where to take a map and guide (includes GPS locations) to find the projects, and also screens a 'making of' video of the project.

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Founded in 2005 by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna, Latitudes is a curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain, that works internationally across contemporary art practices.

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