Skyless / Sin Cielo (2017)
Cultural landscape. Central Bank of Colombia, Manizales.
Somewhere in northwestern Colombia (Marmato, Caldas) the landscape is transformed by aggressive scars left by gold mining activities. This is a poisoned, toxic, and forgotten territory. Fragments of images in the work are deconstructed and reconstructed on nine screens which are organized as a video wall grid. This audiovisual presentation reveals traces of cyanide and mercury on putrid, muddy, waters that, as they flow through, leave behind devastation and a sense of drowning. It is a ‘moral ruin’ that has profound effects on the political, social, and ideological dimensions of the territory.
Clemencia Echeverri: unrestful waters
This projection is a single-channel version of a large multi-part video wall originally commissioned by the Banco de la República in Colombia. In Sin Cielo, montage enables Echeverri to create several narratives within the immersive projection, aided by a carefully composed soundtrack that provides other parallel stories: extraction, processing, and discharge of the polluted byproducts back into the river. It also shows how the territory itself disappears by being continuously eroded into the river below. If Treno spoke about the criminality of illegal armed groups and the disposal of the corpses of the bloody war they waged on the social body, Sin Cielo talks about other illegal practice: unchecked and unregulated mining, which poses a deadly threat to nature, poisoning the waterways and in so doing putting in peril the survival of entire communities -thus becoming a veritable social as well as environmental crime. The river in Treno carries dead bodies; the one in Sin Cielo is in itself a dead body of water, bringing destruction downriver with its inexorable flow.
José Roca, curator 2017.
• Colección Banco de la República, obra comisionada. 1/5
• The Ulrich Museum. Kansas, United States. 2/5
— Rivus. 23rd Biennale of Sidney. Australia, 2022. Participation certificate.
— Art Fair Barcú. Bogotá, 2020.
— Art Gallery of Guelph. Curated by Sally Frater. Canadá. 2020-21.
— Liminal retrospective, Miguel Urrutia Museum of Art (MAMU), 2019.
— Strata. Rocks, dust, stars. MAC Panamá. 2018.
— Sicardi Gallery, Bogotá. 2017.
— Energetics. Curated by José Roca and Isaac Dyner. 2017.
— Video Wall and mono channel video. Commissioned by the Art Museum, Banco de la República. 2016.
INTERVENED PHOTOGRAPHY WITH DRAWINGS AND COLLAGE
MOVISTAR ARENA - BARCÚ FAIR
MIGUEL URRUTIA ART MUSEUM
Sin Cielo/Skyless is a video installation comprised of nine HD monitors by Clemencia Echeverri. In recent years her work has been focused on sensorial and corporeal approximations to space, often related to her interest in territorialisation and de-territorialisation in the context of the recent socio-political history of her country. The monitors show fragmented scenes of gold extraction and its eﬀects on the landscape around Marmato. However, during the editing process, the work was conceived simultaneously across the nine monitors. In this manner, Sin Cielo was thought of as a place able to account for the fragmentation of space, rhythms and temporalities of the work. Images decompose and recompose, each time oﬀering us a diﬀerent view.
One scene shows traces of mercury and cyanide in the form of a toxic mud that trickles down fractures in the mountains. The landscape is investigated slowly and thoroughly by drone, almost in a forensic manner. It is precisely this investigative process – mediated by cameras and drones – that confronts the spectator with the causes of the hurt landscape presenting evidence diﬃcult to ignore.The Canadian artist Charles Stankievech has deﬁned forensic art as ‘art that either uses forensic strategies or engages in a commentary on forensic processes’, arguing that such art often serves as ‘counter forensics – a strategy to contest the status quo or state power’. Sin Cielo is, albeit not deliberately, a work that adheres to this aesthetics of evidence problematised by Stankievech.
As legal cases contesting industrial mining in Colombia resulted in little success – and provoked legal action in return – the question is whether works that make use of an aesthetics of evidence are able to serve as eﬀective counter forensics, and, if so, whether this represents a conﬂict of interest with their aesthetic value. In this regard, Sin Cielo oﬀers a space for concomitance by inverting the roles of spectator and landscape, challenging our conceptions of a passive landscape that merely witnesses conﬂict and revealing the intrinsic connections between social and environmental violence. Echeverri does not include any voices of the people aﬀected by the arrival of transnational companies. Instead, the image of the landscape is allowed to disclose its own audio-visual narrative, bringing it to the fore as a suﬀering agent and not only as the stage for violence. This, however, does not detract from the evidentiary value of the work. On the contrary, the medium itself – video – acts here as a mediator between us and the realities of Caldas. Sin Cielo allows the viewer to see corners of the earth inaccessible to our sight, inviting close attention to the skin of the earth and the stories that it contains and expresses of neo-colonisation, violence, abuse and displacement caused by gold extraction. Sin Cielo is an uncomfortable work. It does not demand the spectator to react or participate, but instead inverts the roles, portraying the landscape as an active suﬀering agent and the viewer as a mere impotent witness.
Mining Colombian Contemporary Art: histories, scales and techniques of gold extraction.
BEHIND THE SCENES
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
- Mining Colombian contemporary art: histories, scales and techniques of gold extraction. Ana Bilbao. Burlington Contemporary. England.
- The Roar of the River Grows Ever Louder. Polluted Waters in Colombian Eco-Art. From Alicia Barner to Clemencia Echeverri. Gina McDaniel Tarver. Routledge, New York.
- Clemencia Echeverri: unrestful waters. José Roca. Notes for the exhibition at Sicardi Gallery, Houston.
Location: Municipio de Marmato, Caldas. Gold mining.
General Direction: Clemencia Echeverri
Photography direction: Camilo Echeverri
Sound composition: Juan Forero y Clemencia Echeverri
Sound design: Juan Forero
Edition: Víctor Garcés y Clemencia Echeverri