Utopia / Montaigne series

Photograph, 3 fotografies 39.4 x 58 cm c/u

Baumgarten’s work is characterised by his strong interest in the Americas and their indigenous populations as well as by the passage of time and its influence on nature, human knowledge, economics and power. Despite the fact that Baumgarten’s artistic practice is extremely varied – with site specific works, ephemeral sculptures, texts, photographs, films – names are the only common element in all his activities.1 To name is the most basic form of power, to delineate and identify parts of the world. In the case of colonialism, renaming was understood as claiming, and became the most important means of ‘taking possession’. Repeatedly, Baumgarten’s work uses the names of indigenous populations throughout North and South America, the names with which these populations call each other, as well as the names used to designate the Gora, fauna and physical geography of the regions linked to these populations. Through this repeated use of indigenous names Baumgarten seems to suggest a possible reversal of the traditional oppositions between the so-called Old and New Continent.

In his first exhibition in North America –at the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, in 1985 –Baumgarten presented black-and-white photographs made in 1977 of the Gran Sabana. This region, a vast extension of fields in the southwest of Venezuela and the hypothetical location of El Dorado, has been the focus of numerous works by Baumgarten, even prior to his visit to the area. These photographs are accompanied by the names of the rivers in the area, the only surviving vestiges of the indigenous language of the region, which has already disappeared. Rich in resources and minerals, La Gran Sabana is witness once again to the fight for appropriation through its commercial exploitation. Baumgarten’s work not only metaphorically links its colonial past to its neo-colonial present, but also denounces the effects of these developments upon indigenous populations and the radical changes taking place in its ecosystem. Baumgarten refers to this exploitation and the environmental threat looming over the natural landscape and its indigenous inhabitants not only in his visual work but also in numerous publications.

Technical details

Original title:
Utopia / Montaigne series
Registration number:
Baumgarten, Lothar
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Gelatin silver print
3 fotografies 39.4 x 58 cm c/u (height x width)
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
© Lothar Baumgarten, VEGAP, Barcelona
It has accessibility resources:

The MACBA Collection features Catalan, Spanish and international art and, although it includes works from the 1920s onwards, its primary focus is on the period between the 1960s and the present.

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