AÓ – PROYECTO HERBOLARIO – DÉCLARATION DE MARCOS BENITEZ
“In more than 30 years, my work has traversed different themes. However, there’s something that has remained, like a substrate that runs through the core of my concerns. In this sense, issues such as the relationship between humans and the environment – with its elements like water and earth – have been constant. Likewise, and more specifically, consumption, recycling, deforestation, the relationship with the territory, and productivity.
These concerns are not random. They are not related to an activist awakening or a moment of realization. I was born into a household marked by respect for all living beings; my mother, my great teacher, showed me a path, and I found in art, my own language, the space to develop and unfold that entire world.
In AÓ-Proyecto Herbolario, the lines of deforestation, territory, and productivity are addressed more specifically. In 2016, during a residency in Puerto Casado, a locality in the Paraguayan Chaco that has endured a history of dispossession and extractivism, I focused on quebracho, a tree species closely linked to the town’s history. I began working there by wrapping wood from an old dock with fabrics previously rinsed in the Paraguay River; almost as if it were a performance, I embraced each of these pieces of wood with canvas, witnesses of that history. The record captured by each canvas returned to me the trace of that material that had gone through a century of dispossession.
Back in Asunción, I started working on another territory, that of the Mata Atlántica, the wealth of its jungle, whose ramifications reach Paraguay and form the basis of the Guarani herbal culture that we have inherited. This jungle, every year, sees its extent reduced due to economic factors related to extractivism that do not consider mitigation policies or reforestation actions. Likewise, governments have either been unable or unwilling, functional to this mode of production, to confront the deforestation processes, which are now irreversible.
In 2020, following both threads and in the midst of quarantine, I began journeys through a besieged city that still retains part of its forest memory. During my regular walks, I began something like an inventory of those local trees that can still be found in the city of Asunción, sometimes in large sizes.
Armed with meters of canvas and a ladder, I started the work. Each piece of fabric was rinsed, wrapped around a trunk, and rubbed with the same soil from which the tree is born and nourished. I like to think that in that gesture, I can symbolically reverse damage and at the same time generate a memory of what we are losing.”