Both of the works selected here were made in Bolivia. You have been working there for a few years now, what makes it special as a decor for your installations?
I once heard a story about a Bolivian artist who was using a lake (the Laguna Verde) as his gallery: he organized exhibitions and performances there. The lake is very far in the south, no paved roads go there, the place is hard to reach. I was intrigued by this idea and tried to get in touch with the artist. After a long search I found out his name – Gastón Ugalde – and sent him my proposal for the lake; he answered that he would help me to finalize the project.
When we started travelling towards Laguna Verde, we passed through many other sites, such as the Salar salt desert and Laguna Colorada red lake. I have been working with Gastón since 2004 and have been to Bolivia many times, often travelling through the highlands.
I really like the expanses of these landscapes; the scenery has a sense of purity, with hardly any people, no human intervention in the landscape. You feel more aware of the power of nature and your own insignificance. You can drive for days without seeing other people, it’s amazing!Your work requires a lengthy and sometimes harsh process of preparation and construction, often involving collaboration with local people, be they the salt miners of Bolivia or inhabitants of Igloolik in the Arctic Polar Circle. The installations you build in these faraway lands also echo local imagery and beliefs. Can you tell us about how you produced the two images we have selected?
In my work, a lot has to do with finding the right places, searching for local people who can help me to reach the sites and manufacture the works. Most of the time, I travel on my own with a backpack containing all my equipment - cameras etc. So I am quite dependent on people I meet along the way. These might be Inuits in a small settlement in the Canadian arctic, or perhaps indigenous people in Bolivia, such as salt miners.
Both of the works – ‘Carpets’ and ‘Hats’ – were made in the Bolivian Altiplano and reflect their surroundings. In ‘Carpets’, I played with the greenish colour of the lake, almost like a watercolour, and added lightly-coloured carpets, as if their colours could blend into the harsh landscape.
In ‘Hats’, I took hats from a local market and let them float in the remote mountain landscape. It reminded me of old cowboy movies: in a way, I enjoyed watching these hats go on their own travels across the emptiness of the landscape. Over the past ten years, you have travelled and worked in the desert of Bolivia, in the mountains of China or on the ice of the Polar Circle. What attracts you to such remote locations?
I guess to me it’s important to find spaces where there are no traces of human intervention, where nature ‘prevails’. This may be partly due to the fact I grew up in the Netherlands, where the entire landscape is fashioned my men, with no ‘pure nature’ to be found.
I am also quite simply drawn by the beauty of these isolated places, by their magic. For instance, the salt desert of Bolivia is an immense white landscape, almost like a blank sheet of paper placed before you. As if the landscapes were to dictate the outcome of a work.
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