Cwith the work Drawing Infinite, inspired by a graphic from the Kaingang tribe, the French-Tunisian artist Jean Paul Ganem makes an intriguing cross between edible art and Brazilian indigenous culture. Cultural certainty is the key to this land art, inserted in the artistic movement inspired by the dialogue between art and nature, which emerged in the late 60s.
Ganem lives between Paris and Montreal, where he has a studio, and now works in Serrinha Farm, in Bragança Paulista. To carry out the work, he teamed up with chef and researcher Bel Coelho, a specialist in Brazilian food. “Her suggestion was the indigenous cuisine with plants capable of composing the design of the Kaingang basketry”. The new is articulated in this invention, which proposes a walk through the “corridors” seated in a soil permeated with vegetables, flowers, medicinal and edible plants. Entering this vegetation, with irregular topography and symmetrical cartography, makes you smile to yourself, believing that country life is something extraordinary. The contact with these plants, some strange to the city inhabitant's table, builds an emancipating experience, the fusion of nature with the urban.
O Drawing Infinite it is linked to the regeneration of the land, it connects the contemporary look of the environment to an ancestral culture and touches the objective that moves Serrinha, directed by Fábio Delduque, visual artist and owner of the farm. “The plants used in this work are developed in an agroforestry system intercropped with several species, as opposed to monoculture. 20 years ago, everything here was pasture and, before cattle, my great-grandfather grew coffee”. As a result, the land was degraded and his mission alongside his brother was to recover it. “Today the biome works, it attracts birds and animals, contrary to what many are doing with nature”, he comments. The intervention in nature carried out by Ganem is colored by the same concerns. He also engages with territories devastated by industries, man and urban dumps. Infinite Drawing was carried out by a team that includes an architect, an agronomist, a scholar of edible and medicinal plants and some people from the farm.
Landscape is of fundamental importance in rural utopias. Ganem arrived at Serrinha four years ago accompanied by Canadian chef Michael Stadlander, with whom he had already land art edible in Montreal. He performed the work and Michael prepared the banquet at the place of work, in a performance in consonant movement. Michael is a pioneer in gastronomy farm to tables, that negotiates directly with small producers. Each plant can turn into a dish of little-known special shape and flavor. For Ganem, there is no split between man and nature. Working the land and getting it ready for planting is like standing in front of a blank sheet of paper waiting for inspiration.
Analog reasons support the idea of this artist wanting to intervene in the Brazilian landscape. But how to manage the production of a site specific of this size? Ganem comments that an intervention like this can take months to complete because each vegetable is harvested at different times. Delduque remembers that Drawing Infinite started to be planted in March of this year and was influenced by the pandemic and intense heat. “Vegetables have already been harvested a few times for consumption on the farm, other times sent to the organic products cooperative and many donated. Ganem’s work is wrapped in the idea of agroforestry, organic garden and artwork, all at the same time.”
Seen in retrospect, the artist carried out the intervention three years ago Water mirror, with a kilometer and a half of winding design made with the purple napier plant, involving reforestation. He worked on a coherent ecosystem, associating a tropical forest with the winding lands of Serrinha, in the lower part of the farm. The aerial view of Water mirror and some of Ganem's interventions in other countries are in the book An art in love with nature, alongside the works of Robert Smithson and other icons of land art.
Ganem began his art through painting, working in the countryside, outside Paris. “In this region, the landscape changes quickly, the wheat turns from green to dark brown in a month, making it almost impossible to capture this transformation”. Over time he migrated to land art, negotiated with farmers, showed them sketches of what he intended to do, and assured them that the harvest would not be jeopardized. “I convinced one of them to work with three types of wheat at the same time, turning his land into a huge checkered field. Farmers not only produce food, they create amazing images.” The intervention in the landscape builds its audience in the very place where it is done. ganem believes that the art developed in the field, in addition to social engagement, is also pedagogical. “Farmers realize the importance of nature not only for their plantation, but also for the ecological urgencies of the present and the future of the planet”. The link between these works and concerns about climate change and soil destruction is evident and Ganem understands that artists have an obligation to get involved with these emergencies.
Among his land arts stand out a striped field in the form of a bar code, a winding road near Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which contrasts with the routes traced by aviation and The River Path, made in the Botanical Garden of São Paulo. The creative process of the last 20 years of Ganem is narrated in the documentary The Edge of Landscape, of 52 minutes, directed by Eliane Caffe. Today his work integrates the Parque das Esculturas da Serrinha, which brings together interventions and open-air sculptures by artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto, Luis Hermano, José Roberto Aguilar, Lucas Bambozzi, Bené Fontelles, Hugo França, Coletivo BijaRi, Fernando Limberger, Marcos Amaro, Laura Gorsky, Stela Barbieri, Eduardo Srur and Fábio Delduque.