Joya: AiR / University of the Arts London ‘Art for the Environment’ award / Nana Maiolini
Less is More: 12 Days In Joya: arte + ecología
It feels difficult to report the experience I had in the residency at Joya: arte + ecología. Although it was an insightful one, which nurtured me a lot, it seems I am still digesting it. Perhaps that is because somehow it has not finished yet, once its outputs are still in progress.
Before arriving at Cortijada Los Gázquez at Parque Natural Sierra María-Los Vélez I only had a vague idea of the dynamic of the place and of how my project would be developed over there. Aware that I would only find it out in situ, I tried to prepare myself as much as I could. In my suitcase I was bringing a couple of books, my equipment and some objects that I imagined to make work with. Arriving in Granada, though, I have been told that my luggage was lost and that the airline company could not guarantee the exact delivery date.
Spending the first week with only few clothes and part of the equipment would have been an unfortunate beginning, unless it did not allow me a deeper exchange with the place I was inserted in. As Rauschenberg said, “when you are lost you look so much harder”.
My initial project was based on an ambiguous sensation of missing the natural environment from my home country, which had been strong since I moved to London one year ago. The nostalgia of having a lifestyle in Brazil, which was more integrated with nature than I have been able to do recently, was combined with an anger provoked by facts regarding the huge devastation there. I was particularly struck by the recent disaster caused by the collapse of a mining dam in a Minas Gerais, which created an enormous environmental impact. The strong image of the mud invading villages, rivers and the sea was attached to my memory about Brazil and generated the need to produce a work of that.
In this residency, I wanted to approach this double relation to the environment, between a certain healing that nature can promote and the environmental disaster. Inspired by De Maria’s manifesto On the Importance of Natural Disasters, in which he states that natural catastrophes ‘may be the highest form of art possible to experience’, I was interested in this same force that can be both generative and destructive – whether producing an artwork or a disaster. Intending to avoid making a spectacle out of the images of the disaster in Minas Gerais, my initial proposition was to try and create experiments using the sound of the explosion plus sounds that would be recorded during the residency.
Although I was interested in that Brazilian landscape, after my arrival in Andalucía it became clear that it would be more sincere to react to this place rather than evoking something that was not present. The lack of the specific material I was planning to use also pushed me to detach from my previous plans and to throw myself to the experience of the place itself.
Yet the landscape in Sierra de María-Los Vélez Natural Park is astonishingly beautiful, it has been suffering from centuries of human unsustainable occupation plus the consequences of climate change. The agricultural practices, such as monoculture farming, as well as the arid climate and lack of rains have been causing a severe process of desertification.
Amid that area, though, Cortijada Los Gázquez is a pole of renovation. Restored from an abandoned complex of five dwellings, the residence is constituted by bright and generous spaces, designed in resonance with local architectural tradition. The off-grid energy system makes use of the abundant sunlight and wind that characterise the site. Inside the house, the loving family members Donna, Simon, Sesame and Solomon make the artists-in-residency feel like home.
 ‘I don’t necessarily desire a perfect photography’. Interview by Alain Sayag (1981), in Robert Rauschenberg Photographs, Pantheon Books, New York.
 My practice as an artist is mostly based on research and perception of territories. Having a camera, an audio recorder and my body as main tools, I work across different media, including film, performance and installation. For the development of a new work, I would describe my research method as similar to Suely Rolnik’s definition of the cartographer’s practice. In her words, ‘the cartographer does not intend to explain or reveal. What they want is to dive into the geography of affects and to invent bridges of language to make their crossing. (My translation). Rolnik, S. (1989) Cartografia Sentimental: Transformações contemporâneas do desejo. São Paulo: Editora Estação Liberdade.