Monday, November 20, 2023

Featuring seven short videos made by artists from across the Americas, Spells Upon The Land highlights humanity’s consequential relationship to the land. Each of the artworks in this program conjures the social and political imaginaries of the earth, an awareness of animal intelligence, and the poetics of protest and play.

Artists: Elena Damiani, Colectivo los Ingravidos, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Ana Vaz, Paul Kos, Minia Biabiany and Camilo Echeverri.

In the English language, the phrase ‘natural bodies’ refers to rivers, forests, or mountains, but since 2006 the metaphor has been literalized by expanding the legal rights traditionally given to a person to include nature —blurring the distinction between human bodies and natural bodies. This legal rendering of animistic origins is an act of cultural translation, of spells upon the land remade into frameworks for legal standing.

Latin America has been a global leader in assigning rights to nature. Ecuador was the first nation in the world to do so in 2008, followed two years later by Bolivia. In 2017, Mexico City added language about the rights of nature to its constitution, and a year later Colombia recognized the Amazon as a subject with rights. This seismic shift in legal protection serves as background and context to a curated program of video artworks that trace new metaphors of the land and also acknowledge the critical terrain and the long march still ahead to the horizon of land and climate justice.

Artists, writers, and filmmakers are critical agents in conjuring new thinking for the critical significance of the land. In his book The Great Derangement, Indian writer Amitav Ghosh suggests that the climate crisis is also a crisis of culture and imagination. More than ever we need artists to help us comprehend abstractions like the sky and the sea, to sense the scope of the land and find salient metaphors that enable us to think beyond the often technical language used to describe it. He calls this work of artists and writers “a task of the utmost urgency,” both because of the looming threat of climate change, and the need to find new translations for ways of living with the land, rather than extracting its resources. Metaphors may be the key to revealing new futures.

Our bodies and the world of metaphor are closely connected. In their book Metaphors We Live By (1980), American philosophers George Lakoff and Mark Johnson talk about how embodied metaphors not only shape our reality but are capable of creating new understanding. Metaphors aren’t arbitrary, they reflect the relational assumptions and social values of a culture and are shaped to a significant extent by our bodies and the ways we move through the world interacting with objects, spaces, and other people. Learning from writers like Ghosh and researchers like Lakoff and Johnson, it’s clear that to respond to large-scale challenges like the politics of the land and climate change, we must think in new ways, invite creative metaphors, and find new (and also remember old) spatial relations. 

A version of this program was originally presented at MACO, Oaxaca in spring 2023.

Curated by Joseph del Pesco, International Director of KADIST.


Joseph del Pesco
In collaboration with
Logo Kadist
Def-Spells Upon the Land


  • Paul Kos. Ice Makes Fire, 2004. 2:53 min
  • Ana Vaz. Atomic Garden, 2018. 7:34 min
  • Elena Damiani. Intersticio, 2012. 5:26 min
  • Colectivo los Ingravidos. Coyolxauhqui, 2017. 9:46 min
  • Minia Biabiany. Learning from the white birds, 2021. 5:58 min
  • Beatriz Santiago Muñoz. La Cabeza Mató a Todos, 2014. 7:33 min
  • Camilo Echeverri. El mato, 2023. 6:23 min

If you have any question, feel free to contact us on 93 481 33 68 or by email at macba [at] macba [dot] cat