The revenge of land art in the era of NFTs and immaterial art

by archynewsycom
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Surely someone remembers Eduardo Chillida in Fuerteventura, in the 90s. Exactly 30 years ago now, in the summer of 1993, Chillida, who was already at retirement age, fought desperately to be able to empty the mountain of Tindaya and to create a space inside that would be like Agrippa’s Pantheon of the 21st century and that would take a verse by Jorge Guillén as its motto: «Lo profundo es el aire». In that longing, Chillida faced everyone: to the indifference of many and the hostility of ecologists, Canarian nationalists and some historians who feared that the intervention would destroy archaeologically rich soil.

His Tindaya ended in the worst possible way: at some point it was known that a corrupt plot had parasitized the project. «It was a real pity that Tindaya was not executed because it would have been one of the great eternal works of international land art on a par with the works of the pioneers of land art. Earthwork American, by James Turrell or Michel Heizer”, says Óscar Luis Pérez, artist and historian of the genre, author of the book Land Art in Spain.

In reality, Chillida’s Tindaya did not die because it was an impossible or totally reckless project, not even because of its original sin of corruption, but because, at that time, no one was really excited: land art looked like it was in the 90s. an anachronistic language, a rather solemn and unfathomable antique from the counterculture years. The art of the 90s was either aimed at luxury consumption, in the style of Damien Hirst and company, or it opened the way to the critical social essay of the 21st century. Christo and Jeanne-Claude seemed like picturesque characters and Chillida… In 1993, who wanted a sculptor to carve out a void inside a mountain? So that?

Chillida may have done better in Fuerteventura if he had arrived on the island in 2023, when more or less comparable projects are on the landscape. In Saudi Arabia, the government of the enigmatic Mohamad Bin Salman has arranged in the Alulal desert a territory of 43 square kilometers dedicated to land art. The Valley of Wadi AlFann is now called Valley of the Arts and includes some interventions on the ground that, on a different scale, are reminiscent of Chillida’s Tindaya. The ensemble also converses with some tombs carved into the rocks in the first century after Christ, similar to those seen in Petra, Jordan… and which, in their own way, are also historical land art. The pieces are extremely pure geometries that perforate the whimsical shapes of the rocky areas and the desert floor. In the new batch of works, the tunnel with oculus of Ahmed Mater the most recognizable example of all those that have settled in Saudi Arabia. The work begins as a straight ramp that penetrates the desert floor, first becomes a tunnel and then a dome, and at the end it becomes a ramp again to return to the surface.

There are more cases of contemporary land art: in the Coachella Valley in California, in another desert landscape and famous all over the world for music, the Desert X Festival is, for 10 years, the closest thing to a pop festival that art can generate. And land art is, once again, the common language.

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