Ventures into global agriculture
exposition de Frauke Huber & Uwe H. Martin
LandRusH –Ventures into global agriculture is an artistic exploration of the social and environmental impact of agriculture around the world.
Agriculture drives climate change, extinction, erosion and water depletion. It uses about 40 % of all land on earth and more than 70 % of all freshwater; drying up riverbeds and draining aquifers. Due to over-exploitation of the soil and rapidly intensifying global temperatures desertification is one of the greatest threats to life on earth. Every minute of every day 23 hectares of arable land are lost to growing deserts, while 23 % of the global land surface1 has reduced productivity due to land degradation.
By 2048 the world’s population is expected to balloon to nearly ten billion. Combined with changing diets — primarily from plant based to meat and fish — this means a higher demand for food and the threat of an even faster degradation of our soil due to exhaustion, while at the same time an increasing number of harvests will fail as a result of climate change. Fertilizer disposal from industrial farming activities harm the ecosystems of rivers and coastal areas, while deforestation and the transformation of grassland into farmland causes soil erosion and a loss of biodiversity. Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history and agriculture and land-use changes are the main drivers that also contribute roughly a quarter of greenhouse gases driving the global climate crisis.
All combined, agriculture is the single most transformative thing humans are collectively doing to the planet, yet most people don’t realize how fragile our food systems actually are.
Frauke Huber and Uwe H. Martin have been documenting the social and environmental consequences of global agriculture since 2007. Using a slow journalism approach they build close relationships with farmers, ranchers and fishermen; and interview policy makers, activists and scientists. Their projects have grown organically, chapter by chapter, in a constant cycle of research, production, and presentation. This open process allows their work to surface in ever-new contexts, gradually building bridges from magazine publications and documentary films, linear web documentaries, and interactive apps to spatial installations at art institutions.
For the first time this exhibition brings together all three chapters of Huber and Martin’s ongoing investigation:
WHITE GOLD (2007 – 2012) examines the social and ecological effects of global cotton production. Cotton is used in our clothing, banknotes, animal feed, toothpaste and film rolls. Cotton has always been traded more unfairly than most other products and its reputation as natural is nothing more than an illusion. It destroys entire regions due to excessive water needs, it uses more pesticides than other plants, threatening ecosystems. Plus, cotton stimulates the global industrialization of agriculture.
LANDRUSH (2011 – ongoing) analyzes the impact of large-scale agroinvestments on rural economies and land rights, the boom of renewable fuels, the reallocation of land, and the future of agriculture around the world. It documents neo-colonial land grabbing in Ethiopia, industrial mega-companies in Brazil, family farms that are flourishing due to ethanol production in Iowa, and organic farming and land use policies in Eastern Germany — amongst many more phenomena.
DRY WEST (2014 – ongoing) documents the hydro society and human shaped landscapes of the American West, where rivers run in concrete beds, across mountains and desert, and up towards money. Increasingly, this system that made deserts bloom and cities boom is out of balance. The region demands more water than nature provides. More than 80 percent of the water goes to an agricultural system that turned harvesting into a mining operation: instead of copper, gold, or oil, it mines highly subsidized water.
The multi-channel installations take the viewer on an immersive journey through the landscapes and situations of modern-day agriculture, feature intimate stories of diverse stakeholders and provide an insight into complex scientific, political, legal and philosophic ideas. These narrative vignettes lead the viewers to consider multiple positions at once and ask questions rather than guide them along a finished story.