Anthology of Landscapes

SIC, Helsinki, Finland

25.09 to 20.10.2023

“Anthology of Landscapes” is the compendium of a genealogical research on the Western idea of landscape addressing the economy of gendered, colonial, and racial discourses embedded in this concept across different historical contexts. Staged as an exhibition, the research is presented through a series of works documenting its unfolding course with the aim to uncover a more nuanced understanding of the complex and multifaceted relations which tie bodies and the land.

Landscape, rather than a historical pictorial subject or a specific kind of image, is a way of seeing which, to this day, has been deeply naturalized into our perception. In the West, however, the concept of “landscape” was formulated for political scopes during the Renaissance and it has been picked up by statesmen over centuries to be adapted to the different political, cultural and identity needs of their governments - first for countries and later for nations - making landscape, rather than a beautiful scene to be observed, a powerful ideological construction. Later on, this specific representation of land also served as an early capitalist emblem for the market of capitalized prosperities, while being turned as well into actual objects of value, like in the case of the 18th century Dutch landscape paintings which were made to demonstrate the wealth accumulated as a result of the country’s colonial activities. Landscapes are also heavily gendered, from the Greek myth of Europa to the contemporary trend of attributing names to natural phenomenons. The Western history of human-land images is a construction which has been used to carry and purvey the naturalization of ideas regarding race, class, gender that ultimately converged in line with the modernisation of capitalism.

Drawing upon a critical analysis of the historical conceptualization of landscape as a precursor to such a process in Europe, “Anthology of Landscapes” presents a series of works that serve as documentation of the unfolding of the research. A painting reproduces a section of the atlas of text and images which was the result for the installment of the project. The central body of the exhibition takes the form of a library in which the practice and materiality of painting is asserted as a tool for research. On the shelves is displayed part of the anthology of the exhibition, composed of documents and books rematerialized in the form of painted objects, these last replicating the original object in their weight. The installation is introduced by the reproduction of the preparative sketch for one of the views created by Alexandre Desgoffe to decorate the ceiling of the Labrouste room in the Bibliothèque de l'Institut national d'histoire de l'art in Paris, the first major library in Europe illuminated by daylight. Around the space, handkerchiefs (foulards) are printed with quotations which serve as text and caption for the exhibition, while reconnecting to the history of the textile accessory which, in the 17th century, was preferred over paper as a support for mapmaking. A final group of works comprises six paintings reproducing pages extracted from the science fiction novel “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin. This novel which, more than others by the same author, addresses the consequences of the use of the notion of landscape in the creation of national boundaries and identities, summarized in the beautiful lines pronounced by one of its characters:

“[...] Hate Orgoreyn? No, how should I? How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That's a good thing, but one mustn't make a virtue of it, or a profession... Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope."

The exhibition has been developed with the support of The Arts Promotion Centre Finland.
Poster designed by Daniel Faltys.
Foulards designed in-collaboration with Dylan Colussi.

After Labrouste Room(3/3), 2023, oil on cotton, 230 x 270 cm

Untitled, 2023, oil on linen, 50 x 60 cm

Estraven The Traitor VI, 2023, oil on cotton, 40 x 30 cm

Poly-Olbion, 2023, oil on linen, 81 x 52 cm

Sans Soleil, 2023, oil on linen, 120 x 160 cm

Carrying the world on one’s shoulders(17/17), 2023, Printed cotton twill, 63 x 63 cm

*Exhibition Photo: SIC