A light for the myopia caused by the climate crisis
Armin Linke (Milan, 54 years old) has spent more than 20 years portraying those places hidden from the view of citizens where decisions are made that destroy the Earth. The Italian artist shoots with his camera at hydroelectric dams, seedbeds, greenhouses, buildings where food and flowers are auctioned, computer screens that try to predict climate change … That is, he creates art from technology, infrastructure or logistics systems to try to raise public awareness about climate change. “Photography is the starting point for discussion, it serves to raise a debate,” says Linke by video call about his work, which meets at the exhibition Blind Sensorium: Antropología visual, the first solo show of the artist in Spain, which houses the Matadero in Madrid in collaboration with the Sorigué Foundation.
PHOTO GALLERY: The infrastructures that change the Earth
Arranged as if it were a forest, the exhibition is divided into three parts. Linke’s photographs are like glasses to see closely those places where the hand of man does not agree with the needs of the environment. Each image is illuminated with a light bar, as in one of those laboratories where seeds are selected to guarantee crops every day of the year or in those greenhouses from which cables are hung to fight against the temporality of food. At the bottom of the photo, interventions by experts who do not try to explain the image, but rather open that reflection that is Linke’s ultimate goal. “There is a certain myth that the photographer is a hero who goes where others cannot. In this case I would add that sometimes photography is not enough. That is why we have asked experts to comment on them ”, he explains.
The artist gives an example of one of his first works. He traveled to the Ertan Dam in China, one of the largest such infrastructures in the world. There he found a population that had been forcibly relocated. Not only their houses changed location, but also schools, hospitals, shops … The image he took has a certain poetic character in his complaint. The fishermen, almost spectra from the effect of the camera, seek sustenance in an artificial body of water. It is his way of interpreting the new natural and artificial landscapes. “It does not have a political mission or a bitter look,” Ana Ara, head of the Matadero program, accompanies.
Linke travels the world as part of multidisciplinary teams. The artist records and photographs alongside scientists who seek answers through projects linked to different institutions. From each of his trips he has brought a puzzle sheet that he has finished assembling in this exhibition not only with his photographs, but also with an unpublished video, the second pillar on which the exhibition is based. The film delves into this debate on the Anthropocene, the term coined in 2000 by the winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry Paul Crutzen, who considers that the influence of human behavior on Earth constitutes a new geological era.
This geological study is recreated in a timeline of more than 20 meters that underpins the sample. A journey through the layers of the Earth that serves to delve into the film (at each stop, there is a QR code that allows access to the full interviews of the video) and immerse yourself in decades of work and, also, the gradual destruction of nature .
Neither his images nor his video impact due to their spectacular nature. In the darkness of the Matadero warehouse, the reflection is almost an incessant murmur. A summit on climate change in an empty stadium in the center of which a large white tent loaded with air conditioning houses the experts. A fire without flames in Indonesia: the earth burns from the coal it houses and takes all the oxygen with it. A tree in the Retiro park in Madrid domesticated by humans until it has the shape of the worlds of Alice in Wonderland. A machine in a nondescript room that houses data and more data about the future of the Earth. “We have a lot of information collected by satellites, computers, sensors in the water … that allows us to predict the future, but even so we are blind or do not take the necessary precautions in the face of change,” says the artist.
“I’m halfway between art and activism,” says Linke. “My activism is trying to show the process of how humans and technology change the Earth, not the before or after.” Once he has managed to reach this intermediate point in the chain, his intention is to make it visible without generating answers: “That is my creative part.”
Blind Sensorium: Antropología visual, from March 12 to May 20 in Matadero, Madrid.