Moving More Than Mountains

By Kendall Mealey

             Imagine the home you grew up in, and the home that your family built, being torn down, and taken away from you in a matter of months. That is the exact feeling that the envelopes the hearts of the residents of Peru. The exhibition Moving Mountains: Extractive Landscapes of Peru is located at the Visual Arts Center on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. The exhibit consists of a variety of mediums including photography, printmaking, drawing and video installation by two separate artists: Edi Hirose and Nancy La Rosa. The different artworks revolve around the construction developing in the nation of Peru, and corporate companies behind the remarkable destruction. What were once beautiful rural landscapes are seen now as turning fast into urban money making centers.

The images are placed as cleanly as design plans, mapped out into blocked forms that reflect the growing gridded landscape of the countryside. Through images of construction work, trashed rivers and worn down mountains, Hirose and La Rosa tap into the impact of how everyday life is being affected. These innovations promote the negative reality coming about, as opposed to the bright future the citizens were hoping for.

The photographs in particular relaying the artist’s chosen message of how much pollution has been created as a result of the construction and destruction of the once beautiful city. The artists present this in several of the images taken of the rivers and waterways within the country of Peru, where the serene content is corrupted by copious amounts of trash and machinery plastic. Another point made here was how the greedy contractors and their thirst for never ending wealth and gold affect the cultural norms of the inhabitants around the city day in and day out.

Not only do the photographs have a beautiful balance to them compositionally, but their back and forth description between heavy landscape and heavy machinery gives a push and pull feel to the audience. This lets the audience really explore the idea of the cultural destruction happening, and lets the audience feel the volleyed emotions that the natives feel. We can find this within the bright landscape images and the hidden trash among the reeves of the river.

One of the main sections of the exhibition, a video installation, singles out how the workers’ and business moguls’ appeal for gold and money will run out as soon as the wealth runs out of the city once they have destroyed it. When that happens, the businessmen who once came in will promptly leave behind a once peaceful countryside, now the ruins that they have created for the inhabitants. The video consists of dark construction planned and various terrain mapped backgrounds with simple yellow words that are portrayed in both English and the native languages to Peru. Sounds of construction behind the words help to make the piece seem melancholy. The video was darker and more prominent than the photographs, which were fairly light in comparison; not only by the composition but also by the light sources that were shown directly above them, illuminating specific pieces throughout the space. The contrast of this was very beautiful; it made each of the works stand out from the others surrounding it and contributed to the idea that there was something darker behind the new so-called beautiful constructed landscape.

In contrast to the larger video, there was also a video installation of brighter series of recordings such as the landscapes natural beauty and winding roads. The videos were fairly silent with slight noises of the occasional passing car or walking bystander. This installation however, was in a dark set room that again brings in the dark reality that was sprinkled throughout the rest of the works. There were a series of sky images behind them about the size of Polaroid prints that spelt out the letters GPS to again relate the terrain landscape theme that was located throughout the exhibit.

There was a singular sculptural piece that was a 3-D printed jewelry piece that was a bright gold placed upon a black velvet background and set alone and apart from the rest of the works of art. A single bright spotlight was placed directly above it, increasing its reflectivity and highlighting it further. The piece was meant to represent the major river ways that run through the countryside of Peru. These rivers are the main collection of trash and debris that have been produced by the migrating dump trucks and various excavating vehicles.

The exhibit was properly spaced out to offer individual viewing range for each of the art installations, but not so far as to disengage the audience from the artwork around it. Each of the drawings and sculptures presented in the exhibition were accompanied by written descriptions that allow the viewer to aptly understand what the artist was trying to convey without straining too much individual thought into the process. This way, the artists were able to clearly make sure that the audience understood their viewpoint, making very little room for one to interpret anything else. The exhibit does not exclusively limit the audience to look at the artist interpretation of the pieces, but also encourages a further exploration of what all the images could mean.

The overall exhibition does an excellent job at creating an atmosphere that brings about a feeling of empathy and hurt that the residents of Peru are feeling. Hirose and La Rosa take intent, and relay it seamlessly to audience. It really captures the contrasting opinions of the business moguls that are destroying through their insatiable lust for more and more money. The pull of the artworks is truly entrancing; drawing you in deeper and deeper just to discover what all is hidden within each photograph, video and sculpture. With the back and forth emotions of happiness and homeward betrayal, the audience is not only captivated and driven to explore each piece, but also thrown into the disappointment that is felt throughout the country. The subject matter of the exhibition reigns consistent throughout and the variations of the pieces make a positive impact to all of its audiences. (1029)