Edi Hirose and Nancy La Rosa, Moving Mountains: Extractive Landscapes from Peru, University of Texas Visual Arts Center
Edi Hirose and Nancy La Rosa’s Moving Mountains: Extractive Landscapes from Peru is a photography exhibition currently on view at the University of Texas’ Visual Arts Center. The work focuses on the radically changing topography around Peru as mining and lumber companies strip the lands natural beauty in order to extract precious metals and materials. As you enter the space the artist reminds the viewer of the old proverb “moving mountains is a miraculous feat”. Hirose and Rosa show you that this is no longer the case when humans are involved by displaying photographs of the Peruvian landscape with vast areas of earth that have been carved away by the mining and lumber corporations.
Their photographs depict an environment that was once a lush home to the Incan people who were famed for their farming ability, stripped of its natural beauty and replaced by mineral mines and literal mountains of dirt removed from the Earth, as well as areas once covered in jungle that have been totally eradicated. Often butting up against towns or the remaining fertile and green jungle, a grim contrast is created between the natural landscape and the alien one created by industry. The artist seem to emphasize documenting the reality of the situation. This is apparent in the photographs as there seems to be no planning or set up of shots, instead the viewer is presented with the rawness of what is happening, as if these were taken by the foreman to show his boss. Much like the process of destroying these landscapes there is nothing complicated about the photographs, which seems to contribute to the message the artist wants to send, that these are landscapes that can quickly be destroyed. Their photographs approach the subject almost like a journalist, simply wanting to convey the truth of what is happening all over there home country. Some of the images focus on the new alien landscape and its “unnaturalness”, close ups of rock cut away by tools. Such as one untitled work taken from the bottom of one of the mines, a large rock wall spotted with workers as they chip away at the earth, shows us the physicality of the corporations presence on the landscape. Other photographs depict the effects mining has on the population of these once natural environments. Like the shanty towns that have appeared in order to support the industry, such as one photograph where makeshift shacks mixed in with larger processing warehouses run all the way up to the edge of the carved landscape.
Overall it was a powerful exhibition, to me it was a physical representation of the negative impact we are having on our home planet, laid out simply and easily read for us to see. I believe Hirose and La Rosa want us to leave the exhibit with a greater sense of awareness for what is going on in their home country. They wanted to show us through documentation the effects of these entities on their landscape.