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Untamed Paradises

Untamed Paradises


7 March 2008 - 18 May 2008
First floor galleries
Tuesdays to Saturdays (including holidays)from 11.00 to 21.00. Sundays, from 11.00 to 15.00
MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo / CAAC, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Sevilla
Virginia Torrente

Works on display

The exhibition PARAÍSOS INDÓMITOS is made up of 46 works, most of which are videos and photographs. It also includes Untitled (Greenhouse) by Peter Coffin, which requires the participation of the public, and an installation by Alberto Baraya.


The central theme of the exhibition UNTAMED PARADISES, a co-production by the MARCO of Vigo and the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, is man's relationship with nature. Twenty artists from various backgrounds explore their relationship with the earth they inhabit, revealing different points of view that range from the romantic to the documentary and from the utopian to the environmentalist. Drawing on nature as a subject of observation and contemplation, a testimony, or as a vehicle for denunciation, the works displayed in this exhibition represent the last stop in the evolution of the landscape genre; the culmination of centuries of human enquiry into the somewhat schizophrenic nature of our relations with our surroundings, during which time the iconography of landscape has gone from the splendour of the Renaissance, to the picturesque of the Baroque, and to the notion of the sublime of the Romantic movement.

As a genre, landscape is overexploited; and as a theme, global warming has become the hard currency of political and economic propaganda. We struggle to view nature as a place for mere contemplation as we inevitably associate with it an attitude of awareness. UNTAMED PARADISES shows contemporary artists' re-readings of the classical conventions defining the genre, illustrating the numerous possibilities afforded by a theme which has diversified tremendously in present times and which embraces everything from the search for virgin pastures to 21st century ecological activism.

And underpinning it all is the vision we pursue of these unexplored places, which has been the subject of much research and attention. The exhibition holds up the man-nature dichotomy to analyse the imprint that man has left on his surroundings as well as the constant struggle for supremacy that has always existed between the two. The artist adopts the role of the last ‘romantic' explorer whose determination led us to discover unknown worlds.

Today, our idea of paradise is quite different and has more to do with evocations of enclosed spaces, reserves or dug-outs. Indeed, untamed paradises seem to carry an aura of secrecy, the promise of privilege to a chosen few; of conquerors-turned-explorers, defenders of a vocation that has evolved in parallel with society. Expeditions undertaken in the 20th century were politically motivated and enabled by the advances of technology, and were little inspired by artistic pursuit, the actions of which did not alter the global maps but documented and condensed ‘reality'. The artist draws up a register of remote places, a test not free of critical intent, which oscillates between the utopian and the nostalgic.

The pieces have been arranged into four sections, depending on the artists' various approaches to the exhibition's thematic axis: the force of nature or the spaces that withstand human action, places that resist all attempts to domesticate them - to this section belong the works by Guido van der Werve, Mireya Masó, Thiago Rocha Pitta, Thomas Joshua Cooper y Eric Rosoman; the utopian journey into virgin territories which develops into an inner search (Marine Hugonnier, Nir Evron, Eva Koch, Sergio Belinchón, Alberto Baraya); man and the Earth: scientific collaboration or the search for relationships between artists, scientists, and nature to improve the uses and transformation of natural spaces (Guillem Bayo, Marjetica Potrč, Peter Coffin, Gonzalo Puch, Heather & Ivan Morison); and, lastly, damaged paradises, or the upset to the balance in the relationship between man and nature (Caio Reisewitz, André Cepeda, Roberto Bellini, Rodney Graham, and Cyprien Gaillard).

A quotation by Henry D. Thoreau, included in the curator's text for the catalogue, serves as both a starting point and a summary or conclusion to some of the ideas and feelings expressed in this exhibition:

"I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves. I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path from my door to the pond-side; and though it is five or six years since I trod it, it is still quite distinct. It is true, I fear, that others may have fallen into it, and so helped to keep it open. The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains."

Henry D. Thoreau, Walden; or Life in the Woods, 1845



Alberto Baraya
André Cepeda
Caio Reisewitz
Cyprien Gaillard
Eric Rosoman
Eva Koch
Gonzalo Puch
Guido van der Werve
Guillem Bayo
Heather & Ivan Morison
Marine Hugonnier
Marjetica Potrc
Mireya Masó
Nir Evron
Peter Coffin
Roberto Bellini
Rodney Graham
Sergio Belinchón
Thiago Rocha Pitta
Thomas Joshua Cooper

Curatorial text

"UNTAMED PARADISES stems from the idea that we are fascinated by evocations of the ultimate wild frontier, of places we believe have yet to be explored - and exploited - though they lie beyond the reach of man, in latitudes where nature imposes its own rules and these are not created by us. Man has forever been obsessed with defying nature. Now that expeditionary travels are rare due to the scarcity of places to be discovered, certain artists have taken up the role of providing a testimony of this need to discover virgin and unspoilt places, far from civilisation.

The works presented in this exhibition ponder this romantic spirit of adventure which still has some meaning in the 21st century. The images they carry evoke emotions, a voyeuristic horror, fear of the unknown, the force and the reason that renders our presence there useless, man's unquenchable thirst for conquest - even now, in the 21st century - and our unrelenting determination to stake victory over nature and social convention over natural law. We see in nature and its laws an irrational and romantic resistance to invasion, an indifference to man. These are places where scientific and technological progress is not allowed; pockets of resistance, the last indomitable paradise, but not for much longer. The exhibition holds a mirror to man's action on the planet; yet it does so not from an apocalyptic or negative point of view but from a predominantly romantic and almost utopian prism, and an optimism which, one hopes, will trigger awareness amongst the public and a desire to protect our environment. The battle is not lost.

The artist works both as an observer, from the outside, mapping out untouched territories condemned to destruction and documenting something that will soon cease to exist, and as a witness, occasionally ‘intervening' using personal criteria to denounce the overexploitation and destruction of nature. From those who work from the studio or remain close to home, to those that set off on journeys in search of distant, unspoilt paradises or paradises already in the process of being destroyed, the artists have developed this interest in recording the sublime, a clear precedent of which lies in the painting of the Romantic era and the literary pastoral tradition and, in contemporary times, in the photography of Ansel Adams."

Virginia Torrente
Curator of the exhibition



Virginia Torrente

Virginia Torrente (Bilbao, 1963) is an independent curator. From 1988 to 1992 she worked as assistant director of the Madrid-based gallery and art book publisher Estampa, and from 1993 to 1999 co-ordinated exhibitions at the Colección Arte Contemporáneo de Madrid. During the time that she spent working as Chief Curator of the Museo Patio Herreriano of Valladolid (2000-2003), she designed solo exhibitions on the artists Juan Ugalde, Isidro Blasco and Jorge Barbi, among other projects. From 2004 to 2006 she was responsible for the Plastic Arts section of the Casa de América in Madrid, carrying out an intense programme of solo exhibitions of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American artists, almost all of which were designed and produced specifically for the Casa de América's exhibition spaces. Parallel to this, she worked as an independent curator for other art centres in Spain and Latin America. Since 1999 she has co-curated the independent project Doméstico, along with Giulietta Speranza, Andrés Mengs, Joaquín García and Teodora Diamantopoulos, which organizes exhibitions in places around Madrid not usually used for contemporary art. The work undertaken in Doméstico has been documented and published in 2005.