Badlands examines the contested frontier territory of Almeria, southeast Spain. This desert landscape on the edge of Europe is being rapidly transformed by intensive agricultural development, golf courses and apartment complexes.
Architecture has been the focus of a tradition of photographers from Frances Frith’s nineteenth-century Holy Land, to Walker Evans’ use of American vernacular architecture as a potent cultural signifier, to the New Topographics’ series of human-made landscapes. Drawing upon these practices – all of which only connoted human presence – in my pictures I focus on plastic as a marker of human intervention to explore how capitalist ideologies and desires are projected onto this desert landscape. Two groups of pioneers coexist here. Irregular migrants from northern and sub-Saharan Africa build bricolage shanties from salvaged plastic; hidden deep within a sea of poly-tunnels they avoid detection from the authorities. In this respect, plastic at once conceals and reveals. Conversely, northern European migrant golfers spend their savings constructing hybrid homes in gated communities. They too use plastic, to materialise their dreams.
My photographs portray plastic as both product and waste: waste of material and waste of human life. The interwoven migrant populations are both in stasis as the current economic crisis holds them fast. No work for the irregular labourers, the Euro is weak, and with the property market frozen, the golfers cannot sell and return home. This borderland, where Europe and Africa overlap, is a microcosm of a rapidly unravelling neoliberal fantasy.
Corinne Silva 2012
Corinne Silva’s photographs of modern Andalucia play with the way in which ideologies and fantasies are embedded in the spaces of the built environment. Contemporary southern Spain with its golf courses, new developments, tomato farms and Western movie sets is home to the new citizens of post-industrialist society – North African migrants, golf tourists, the retired. Her photographs trace the archaeology of artifice from the monumental fibreglass rocks that decorate the gardens of new settlements and that preside over the boundary between the desert and the sweet artificial green of the cultivated lawns, to the other mountains formed from discarded plastic from the polytunnels that stretch out of the desert towards the sea. They trace the journey from the fantastic suburban palaces built for wealthy retirees, through to those other relics of a broken fantasy – the migrant dwellings, packaged together out of sheets of agricultural plastic tied together with string. Silva’s drifting documentary eye fastens precisely upon those many moments when our fantasy life invades reality, when the world presents itself to us as, in some sense, ‘already photographed’. Her skill is in moving between the fabulousness of the simulacrum to the conditions that underpin its very material existence.
Joanna Lowry, Between the Hallucinatory and the Real exhibition catalogue, 2009