The Canary Islands Revisited
The project The Canary Islands Revisited attempts to rethink the cultural and physical landscape of the islands, a landscape that has become fixed in stereotypes which no longer seem to represent the reality of the experience of most people in the Archipelago, whether the inhabitants or the visitors.
From the beginning, the Galería Elba Benítez has, alongside its activities as a traditional art gallery, initiated innovative projects with artists that expand the role of art within society. The project The Canary Islands Revisited attempts to rethink the cultural an physical landscape of the islands, a landscape that has become fixed in stereotypes which no longer seem to represent the reality of the eperience of most people in the Archipielago, wether the inhabitants or the visitors. In doing so, we feel that we need to address not only the past of the islands, but their present in order to understand how often unspoken histories and hidden perceptions of a place and of those whose everydat lives are woven into this land, shape, in a very real snse, the development of the island of today. All societies are prone to the distortions of their own mythologies and their own self-representations, which grow out of political and economic necessity.
The image of the Canary Islands is permeated by the requirements of the tourist industry. So pervasive have been the effects of this process that the diversity of the islands, their histories, and complex communities have been pushed aside or absorbed into the seamless fabric of allure and diversion that characterizes the promotion of tourism. Much of this is inevitable in that it helps to sustain the economy and the livelihoods of those who inhabit the islands. However there also needs to be a place for other voices and other images if the culture and social dynamism of the islands is to be continued and flourish. There need to be actual images of an actual place, a landscape that is recognizable, images that are not fixed in a rigid set of expectations, but offer the possibility of change and transformation, acknowledging the potential of the islands and their people.
The Canary Islands Revisited is intended to promote a representation opening to a more diverse understanding of those possibilities, both for the present and the future. Conceived as a series, the project accompanied by a publication consisted of allocating an artist to each of the seven Canary Islands as though revisiting the islands, coming to them anew, would bring together a sense of the land’s existing image with novel insight into an emerging reality. The choice of artists who participated in this project, Augusto Alves da Silva, Miriam Bäckström, Oladélé Ajiboyé Bamgboyé, Olafur Eliasson, Craigie Horsfield, Miguel Rio Branco and Montserrat Soto, reflects these concerns, bringing very different practices and perspectives to focus on the islands at a significant point of their history where the old certainties have been lost and there is a real need for new perceptions. The work of each of these artists is accompanied with a text by a writer from the Canary Islands, or as in the case of Craigie Horsfield, by the voices and conversations of people from El Hierro.