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Posted on September 5, 2012 by Emilia Garcia Romeu

For two months I have been collaborating with Campo Adentro [Inland]  “a cultural project in support of rural life,” comprising an international conference, a residency program, an exhibition, and a publication.

Though I am a bit suspicious of artists-working-with-the-community (the artist is generally the only one getting credit or profit while the community becomes a somehow blurry, anonymous backdrop for his/her ego-trip), I really liked Campo Adentro’s 2011 residency projects. They were, for the most part, insightful and direct, and had (thank God) no messianic goals. Despite their different in focus and character, they shared some key common notions. The main one is the fact that rural landscapes are culturally produced, that is, the result of interacting agents and activities (such as agriculture and stockbreeding) through time. Those agents and activities generate ways of living and seeing, as well as objects, words, gatherings, songs, and dances. No nature vs. culture but a hybrid of both. In this context, the function of the rural environment as a productive space is emphasized and claimed, as opposed to current policies directed at reducing it to leisure, pleasure, sight-seeing, and entertainment.

Images from Nophoto’s project in Vegaviana, 2011

 Image of Paco Inclán’s residency in Valladares (Pontevedra), 2011

2011 residencies resulted in, among others, Nophoto’s images of Vegaviana (Extremadura), one of the 300 villages created ex novo in the 1950s all over Spain; Paco Inclán’s delirious and hilarious psychogeography of Valladares (Pontevedra); Susana Velasco’s ongoing research on rural huts in Almonáster La Real (Huelva); or Resitance, an audiovisual project by Lucía Loren & Juanma Valentín on the struggles of an agro-cooperative in Puebla de la Sierra (Madrid).

 Images from Susana Velasco’s residency in Almonáster La Real (Huelva), 2011

 Susana Velasco’s residency in Almonáster La Real (Huelva), 2011

Two weeks ago, I went to the presentation of Asunción Molinos’ project in Guzmán, a tiny village in the region of Burgos (Northern Spain), which is part of Campo Adentro’s 2012 residencies. Born in Guzmán herself and daughter and granddaughter of peasants, Molinos has devoted her still short career as an artist to underscore the complex reality of current agriculture. Contestador [Answering Machine] is the title of her project in Guzman, an attempt to (humorously) reproduce the nerve-wracking bureaucratic labyrinth which current rural practices involve.

Enrique and Ambrosio working their lands in Guzmán (Burgos)

Diego harvesting, Guzmán (Burgos), 2012

The origin of the project, Molinos explained, was her conversations with her family home in Guzmán, which, she noticed, revolved more and more about administrative procedures: applications, subsidies, laws, permits, fines, loans… Decisions made in Brussels seemed to increasingly collide with the logic of the productive sector in her village, which, she felt, had other priorities. (In fact, new policies from Brussels are due but nobody knows exactly what they’ll be about or entail yet). Contrary to the stereotype of the peasant as a yokel, she argued, countrymen/women needed a wealth of knowledge that no university degree could provide. Nevertheless, it remains undervalued.

Asunción Molinos, Design for Contestador [Answering Machine], 2012

Contestador replicates the multiple-choice menus that administrations and other bureaucratic structures set to communicate with their clients/users, but inverts the roles. This time it serves Baudelio Merino, an imaginary peasant, whose “phone customer service” includes the following options: 1. Collect bills; 2. Collect insurance money; 3. Collect loan interests; 4. Collect taxes; 5. Collect fines; 6. Offers from Machinery Dealers; 7. Offers from Seeds and Fertilizers Dealers; 8. Announcements of Subsidies Application Deadlines; 9. Announcements of Talks on the Common Agricultural Policies (EU); 10. Confiscation of Property.  These options reflect not only the multiple pressures peasants have to suffer but also the radical transformation of their role from producers of raw materials to consumers in a technologically run and mechanized agricultural sector. To call Baudelio Merino’s Answering Machine, you may dial (+34) 951043859.

 Asunción Molinos at her presentatiton in Guzmán, 2012
I loved that the whole village attended the presentation; that most of them were friends or relatives of Molinos and that many had participated in the project one way or another: the peasants, among them her father and brother, or Mano Warra [Dirty Hand], a local band who played the tune for the music on hold…

Antje Schiffers painting a farm at Enkartaciones (Bask Country), 2012

Other residencies in Campo Adentro 2012 include not only young Spanish artists such as Bárbara Fluxá, Fernando Martín and José Bernal, who are working on the disappearance of transhumance (migratory herding) in La Vera; or Paco Arroyo and his Phonoteque.02., a mixture of musical traditions and new technologies. This year Campo Adentro has also invited Can Altay; Patricia Esquivias; Mario García Torres; Antje Schiffers & Thomas Sprenger – Myvillages; Emma Smith, and Wochenklausur, most of whom will be developing their projects this winter.