Luna Bengoechea: “The Salinas project is one of my most special works”


Committed to movements that require a change in the food industry and greater respect for ecosystemthe canarian artist Moon Bengoechea he expresses through his art everything he believes in. In his last speech, “Salinas Project”the focus is on the gradual loss of artisanal work in the production of salt in the Canary Islands, with what this means for the biodiversity area. We spoke with her to find out more about these particular outside interventions.

See also: Salinas project: the claim of the artist Luna Bengoechea in favor of artisanal production in the Canary Islands

When do you realize that you want to focus your new project on defending the need to protect the natural heritage of the Canary Islands?

Everything is a consequence of having worked for several years around these questions. Since 2011, my work has revolved around the issues of the agri-food industry, and I had previously carried out some interventions in the landscape in other countries, thanks to various artistic residencies. For example, I carried out an intervention with seeds in Bolivia and a similar one in Ecuador. For some time I wondered why not do something in my country, in the Canary Islands. There was a more or less thoughtful project, and when the call was made by the Government of the Canary Islands for the centenary of the birth of César Manrique, which links the projects to the work and work that César did in the islands with respect to the defense of the Canarian natural heritage, my project corresponded very well, and thanks to this scholarship I was able to carry it out.

How did you choose the salars of the Islands in which you wanted to intervene and develop your works?

To start, I made a list of all the salt mines that exist in the Canary Islands, guided by the book salt garden, in which all the salt mines that have existed and that exist today in the islands are collected. In this list I marked my priorities, and so I could choose those that interested me the most. I chose those that are particularly underutilized, i.e. they are performing below their expected performance. I thought that these almost abandoned spaces could be interesting to make the problem visible.

“In the Canary Islands, 60 salt mines have been commissioned, of which only 9 remain, and many of them are operating below capacity.”

To what extent is artisanal salt production being lost in the Canary Islands?

In the Canary Islands, 60 salt mines have been commissioned, of which only 9 remain, and many of them are operating below capacity. There is still salt production and, in fact, some projects are coming back to the market, such as the Bocacangrejo Saltworks, but it is also true that the sector still needs a boost.

Moon Bengoechea. Salinas Project, 2021. Salinas de Las Puntas, El Hierro. Fine Art print on Hahnemühle paper. 81 x 145cm. Edition of 25

What is the importance of these saltworks for the biodiversity of the region?

These salt pans, in addition to being the place where salt can be harvested in an artisanal way, also constitute a very special ecosystem, and I wanted to emphasize this. There are many species of animals that depend on these spaces to survive. This is the case of the waders which, during their migratory period, pass through the Canary Islands to nest and feed. These birds have been strongly affected by the descent of the salt flats where they can land during these migratory periods. This is why in my work I represent these waders, like the Piping Plover or the Turnstone, with large-scale drawings made in the salt flats themselves.

Obviously you have to ask about salt, which is the element you use to create your work, how difficult is it to work with this food, especially since these were drawings in outdoor spaces?

Sea salt has a characteristic property, which is the ability to absorb moisture from the environment in which it is found. This makes it easier to work with, as this moisture causes it to clump together when you place it on the floor. Shortly after making these drawings, these lines of salt were already crystallized, and that meant the wind couldn’t blow them away.

Last Saturday the project book was presented, what can we find there?

It is a photo book that brings together the entire creative process of the project. These interventions, carried out in three different salt pans in the Canary Islands, represent an ephemeral process of which there will be no trace beyond the photographs and videos taken during the work in the salt pans. It seemed interesting to us to gather a series of information within this photo book, which allows us to know the ins and outs of the whole project.

What would you emphasize in your artistic style?

What defines my job the most is the very definite orientation I have shown for 11 years in relation to everything that has to do with the food industry, sustainability and a critical view of the way we live. relate to the natural environment.

I was recently chatting with a chef, Javier Medvedovsky, who went “raw vegan” after he got sick and realized the effects of certain foods on his body. In your case, a health problem also made you realize the importance of nutrition and the problems it can cause in the body, how was this process for you?

Indeed, I also had a similar personal experience, and I was able to see how the fact of introducing toxins or other harmful elements into our body is noticeable over time. In my case, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and it was only after a few years of trying to find a method that would help me find the pain, which I couldn’t do with conventional medicine, when I started seeing a nutritionist. From there I started to make a change in my diet, and it was a very restrictive diet shock therapy that I followed for 6 months. After this period, I managed to clean my body and make the pains disappear, and it changed my way of thinking and perceiving food.

Is it when you are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis that you start noticing the problems in the food industry or have you ever thought about it?

The truth is that I already had a certain inclination to think about these questions, because in my family environment there is a lot of awareness about organic food and we have been wondering about this problem for a long time. But, of course, this disease process ended up being a very powerful thing in my life, and it changed my mindset dramatically.

“There’s always someone who connects with the idea or has had a similar experience and questions this set of (food) issues.”

What problems are there today in our eating style?

I observe an excessive consumption of processed products, that is, those that are excessively manipulated and contain unnecessary amounts of sugar or additives. Many elements are introduced that are not available in foods in their original state, and many of them are harmful.

You have presented works and projects all over the world, how do you perceive the concern for this subject in the art world?

There is always someone who joins the idea or who has had a similar experience and who questions this series of problems. There is usually a significant acceptance regarding my work.

You have already worked several times with the Lucía Mendoza gallery, what does it mean for you to work hand in hand with this gallery?

Proyecto Salinas is the second individual exhibition I’ve done with the gallery, and it’s very special for me to work with them. I am very grateful that you wanted to count on me to participate in ‘OPENING Madrid Gallery Weekend’, which is a very important event in which we have more visibility than in other seasons of the year. In addition, this project carried out in the Canary Islands is very special for me, and it is the first time that I have exhibited it, so it means a lot that it is with the Lucía Mendoza gallery.

Is this the project that gave you the most personal satisfaction?

The truth is that I reached my artistic maturity, and I was also able to work in a team and not individually. The fact of being able to work while listening to the sea, observing some of the birds that we represented in the salt flats…, was a great experience. Additionally, I allowed myself a good amount of research time so that I could work at a more leisurely pace. For all these reasons, I would say this is one of my most special projects.

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