March 2, 2021

The artistic flight of the salt flats

The artistic interventions of Luna Bengoechea (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1984) are ephemeral, beautiful and fragile flights like that of migratory birds, because it draws possible horizons in the gaze and always returns to the coordinates of sustainable heritage that roots and nurtures its journey. His latest project of large-scale visual actions silhouetted birds in different salt flats of the islands, with sea salt as the only element, to make visible and support artisanal salt production in the Canary Islands, as well as to show the impact of their habitats on the conservation of the birds of passage.

This visual appeal from a bird’s eye view is materialized by virtue of the César Manrique Research and Artistic Creation call, where the artist was selected along with four other projects last 2019, and whose proposal is part of the Manrique principle that merges art, environment , sustainability and landscape, and that has always been the backbone of Bengoechea’s work, such as his intervention with soybeans and rice to question the speculative dynamics of the food industry (Novus Ordo Seclorum, 2017) or the children’s drawings with refined sugar and coloring that denounce nutritional manipulation (Questionable Friends, 2019), among others.

The artist has already intervened in El Hierro, La Palma and will do so next month in Lanzarote


In this project, the artist from Gran Canaria explores the spaces, systems and production conditions of the salt flats, both in operation and in disuse, on the different islands of the Archipelago, with the aim of “linking artistic creation with care for the environment and natural heritage of the Canary Islands, which is one of my fundamental lines of work, using natural materials that do not have an impact or ecological footprint ”, points out Bengoechea, who has already carried out this series of visual actions in the Las Puntas salt mine, in El Hierro; in the salt flats of Fuencaliente, on La Palma; and which will culminate next March with a third intervention in a salt mine in Lanzarote.


Regarding the creative process, the artist explains that “the starting point has been to investigate the world of salt production in the Canary Islands, which is a process of local artisan work that has been developed on the islands for hundreds of years.” “In addition, I was also interested in making visible the need to protect the production of sea salt in the islands, which is a very depressed sector because it is not included in the aid for food production, but is regulated as mining extraction, so that There is not enough support to protect this production system in the Canary Islands today ”, he points out.

The artistic flight of the salt flats | SOLECKER

In this sense, the artist points out that “many of the islands’ salt flats are today greatly diminished in their productive capacity, such as the Janubio salt flats in Lanzarote, which are operating at 10% of their production capacity” . “And others, on the other hand, are directly abandoned, such as the Las Puntas salt mine in El Hierro,” he adds.

A critical analysis of the ecosystem of the Canarian salt flats and its impact on the environment is incorporated into this mapping of the space and its production mechanisms, which constitutes a migratory stopping point for the birds of passage that Bengoechea has crystallized in salt drawings. “The salt flats are environments with very particular characteristics, which generate very specific fauna and flora that feed and live in this ecosystem, like these birds that depend on these passageways in their journeys,” he explains.

Along these lines, he maintains that “birds are a symbol of this vulnerable ecosystem that must be protected and that I wanted to represent in these images as a visual appeal to be able to put the spotlight on this reality.” “The idea of ​​these visual actions is to provide a series of bird’s-eye images on different islands to obtain an aerial view of both the natural space and the bird, so we have used a drone to record all these actions seen from the sky”, declares Bengoechea, who has counted in the production with the collaboration of Marta Torrecilla, Carolina Hernández (Solecker), Yon Bengoechea and Alba González de Molina.

The artist hopes to continue the project in the rest of the archipelago’s salt flats


Each of these artistic interventions requires hundreds of kilos of sea salt, depending on the size of each location, to draw the lines of different types of birds directly in the saline space and form a fleeting composition where the landscape, the salt and the the flight of the birds. Specifically, for the artistic intervention in the Las Puntas salt mine, 250 kilos of salt were used to draw a common Archibebe (Tringa totanus), one of the migratory birds that depend on the salt flats to feed during their migratory periods and that pass through periodically by the Canary Islands. “This bird is affected by the loss of habitat, so it is a species in decline,” says the artist, who carried out the research process on the southern island within the framework of Episodio’s artistic residency, within of the Circular Lava Platform coordinated by Ampi Aristu and Octavio Barrera.

For its part, for the intervention in the Fuencaliente salt flats, 500 kilos of salt were used, since, in both cases, no color was incorporated beyond the natural nuances that resulted from the contrast between “the white of the salt and the different shades of the earth ”. Along these lines, one of the keys to the actions, as well as to Luna Bengoechea’s work as a whole, lies in “generating zero waste” and “working with organic matter and local materials, although I have to find life for each piece or action ”, says the artist.

The artistic flight of the salt flats

However, the last stop on this trip to the center of the island salt flats culminates next March in Lanzarote, the volcanic island embellished by the imprint of César Manrique, whose artistic legacy inspires this call and also Bengoechea’s own universe. “I feel very identified with the work carried out by César Manrique”, affirms the artist, “I think his legacy is closely related to the values ​​that underpin my work and for me it has been, without a doubt, a benchmark”.

His work indicates that the birds of passage depend on these spaces in their migrations


And although Lanzarote is the most poetic destination to round off this adventure, the artist does not put an end to her interventions in the salt flats, so the flight continues into the future like the return paths of passing birds. “This is my first approach to this idea of ​​artistically intervening in the salt flats but, for me, it is an open project. For now, the funding provided by the scholarship ends here, but my idea is to intervene in a salt mine on each island, except in La Gomera, where there has been no tradition of salt exploitation, because my commitment is to make visible the need to protect the value natural and historical environment of the salt flats throughout the Archipelago ”, he concludes.

In the image above, the artist Luna Bengoechea in the creative process in the Las Puntas salt mine, on the island of El Hierro, where she used 250 kilos of sea salt. In the image below, a general image of the work team during the development of the intervention. |


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