- Tierras en trance. Arte y naturaleza después del paisaje by Jens Andermann
Jens Andermann’s latest book engages in a reinterpretation of Latin American modernities from the post-human present, by focusing on cultural production whose work, we might say, is the earth itself. Its five central chapters consider a wide-ranging corpus in rough chronological order. This sequence begins with the filmmakers, poets, and automobile pioneers who crisscrossed the interior of the continent in the 1920s, and concludes with present-day cinema and bioart. The intervening chapters consider, respectively, architecture, (neo)regionalist literature from Quiroga to the memoirs of Central American guerrillas, and land art, installations, and performances by figures that include Hélio Oiticica, the Ciudad Abierta collective, and Ana Mendieta.
There is not enough room in a review of this length to enumerate the many artifacts that Andermann examines over the course of more than 400 pages, but the summary above points to how Tierras en trance traverses disciplinary boundaries in order to demonstrate how different forms of human inscription trace and undo the conventional partitions between subject and landscape, culture and nature, and techne and poiesis. An underlying premise for this interrogation appears in the form of a rhetorical question that most directly concerns the structures and gardens examined in the second chapter: “¿Por qué no hacerle a un edificio o un parque, entonces, las preguntas que le haríamos a un poema o un cuadro, preguntas acerca de las historias que narra sobre ese lugar, y de cómo lo acomoda a nuestras miradas y nuestros cuerpos para que lo habitemos?” (141). That is, in spite of the relatively autonomous fields that condition the cultural practices that precede what Andermann coins the “giro ambiental” of the latter half of the twentieth century, there is a kind of discursive economy by which they articulate variants of a common experience: the trance or in-corporation that uproots bodies and places from preexisting forms of belonging and relating. Bringing art, architecture, film, and literature into dialogue, Tierras en trance argues that the reconfiguration of landscape that took place as state power was ascendant toward the beginning of the twentieth century has gradually ceded to new modes of agency that arrest and explode the limits between human and non-human.
This shift is neither linear nor cohesive, as Andermann takes care to stress the affinities (or “vibrations” as he calls them) linking works from different disciplines and historical periods, as well as the contradictory visions of contemporary works. For example, the final of section of chapter three, “Días de la selva: del Putumayo al Quiché,” demonstrates that, while the memoirs of Central American guerillas share apparent ideological affinities, plots, and settings with Che Guevara’s Pasajes de la Guerra revolucionaria, a biopolitical reading reveals a deeper and deeply ambivalent relationship to the human-nature interface elaborated in novelas de la selva such as La vorágine and Los pasos perdidos. Indeed, the incessant return to the [End Page 1037] liminal sites of exploration, exploitation and extraction is central to the book as a whole, from Roberto Burle Marx’s repurposing of an old fazenda as a sort of “landscape laboratory” (168–72), to Robert Smithson’s photolog of his mirror installations in the Yucatan, to the pampa of Albertina Carri’s films (to trace yet another arbitrary trajectory). These engagements do not passively represent prevailing modes of land use, but instead rehearse and enact alternate ways of relating to the earth. Take, for example, the contrast Andermann draws between Andrea Juan’s Antarctic performances known as Sur Polar (Arte + Ciencia), initiated in 2008, and Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares’s Forest Law – Selva jurídica (2014), a project inspired by a lawsuit filed by the Kichwa community against the Ecuadorian government and an Argentine petroleum company. Juan’s project, whose immediate audience is restricted to the small scientific community permitted on the Antarctic base, figures art as a kind of privileged witness to a sequestered natural environment, held in reserve in times of climate change...