Ana García Alarcón

The point of departure for Naturalezas muertas (Still Life-Dead Nature) is the natural environment viewed from a critical stance at a key moment in time. We are witnessing first-hand a climate crisis in which environmental issues can no longer be questioned and have even begun to slip out of our control. We are seeing the end of the world as we know it today and the way we behave will be crucial in trying to halt what is happening, even if we are at the point of no return.

Every day we are faced with scenes of melting ice in the poles; the extinction of animals and plants; invasive species taking over new areas, displacing and wiping out autochthonous species; sea life dying as a result of the vast amount of plastic taking over the oceans; the death of seas and lakes; increasingly more extreme temperatures and storms; the consumption of ultraprocessed foods, and on and on.

We are right in the middle of a pandemic that has completely transformed our everyday lives and we have no idea what the outcome will be. Our habits and ways of relating with one another are changing radically, including the form of interacting with other people in the public space and social distancing. But it also raises issues of political legitimacy, the role of science and the public health system, without forgetting how important it is to look after it in order to ensure that it is open to everybody without distinction. The face mask is a new accessory that conjures images of science fiction and yet has become part of our ‘new normality’. One even wonders if it is here to stay.

We are gripped by a fear of the unknown in a society driven by capital, in a world that gener- ates vast amounts of residues that are stifling the life out of our planet. And still we refuse to modify our habits or give up our comforts. The consequences are already here to be seen but, more importantly, are we capable of implementing changes in our day-to-day lives? Or will we continue as if nothing was happening, consuming products we know are damaging ecosystems?

Avelino Sala is presenting a series of artworks that ask us to rethink how we relate with the environment. A green neon sign outside the exhibition hall sends out a distress signal. The artist sends an S.O.S., a warning of the climate emergency in which we are immersed. This work acts as a declaration of intent and a starting point. Naturalezas muertas, the series that lends its title to the show as a whole, introduces us into the world of transgenic crops which are monopolizing the commodities which areour primary sources of food. A good example are the major pharmaceutical companies like Bayer, DuPont or Monsanto, which account for 80% of the market in transgenic plants. These corporations also produce 60% of the world’s pesticides and 23% of commercial seeds and fertilizers. These crops have been manipulated to replace widely used chemical substances like insecticides and herbicides. And we don’t have to go too far to see the devastating results these chemicals can wreak, the Mar Menor coastal saltwater lagoon is living proof: today it is a dead sea choked by intensive agriculture.

The Global Symbol. Love Among the Ruins is a metaphor of the world in which we live. The symbol of globalization coupled with a dystopian novel, Love Among the Ruins (Evelyn Waugh, 1953), proposes an idea of utopia opposed to dystopia that serves as an anti-icon of globalization and a symbol of resistance. El hundimiento/ Prestige invites us to think of the environmental disaster of the sinking of the Prestige oil tanker as an example here in Spain. The project homes in on the legal battle surrounding the event through an interview lasting several months with Álvaro García Ortiz, the prosecutor who was handling the case. It was the first case in Spain to involve sentences for environmental crimes, leading to a level of awareness that had not existed beforehand.


The oceans are also looked at from different perspectives, like surfing, a sport dependant on the environment yet, paradoxically, surfing and contamination of the sea seem to go together. On the other hand, in the Pacific Ocean, in 2013 the arrival of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the deadliest tropical cyclones ever to hit the Philippines, caused tremendous damage. These consequences are por- trayed in the works from the Naturalezas muertas series while also dovetailing with other issues that look towards the future, as happens in Books for an Unwritten History, in which Avelino Sala turned slogans from the Fridays for Future movement into titles of books for a history still waiting to be written: “It Is Our Turn Now”, “Planet Over Profit”, “Coal Kills” or “The End”, among others. Should we think about the end of the world and dedicate to it the minute of silence it deserves or should we start changing our ways of life?

The exhibition explores these concerns from the optic of the visual arts, asking us to think about latent and visible issues that are often invisible to us. And it is not just the media we have to blame for this invisibility, because we, as individuals, ignore the problem and consume products that damage our planet from the comfort of our sofas. The question is, are we willing to give up our comforts to try to stop this disaster?