Within the 12th Shanghai Biennial, the Colombian artist Miguel Ángel Rojas (Bogotá 1946) presented New El Dorado (A Wild Economy), two satellite photographs intervened and transformed into a mural. Under María Belén Sáez curatorship the artwork is inscribed in the PRO-REGRESS curatorial concept proposed by the Mexican curator Cuauhtémoc Medina in charge of the biennial curatorship.

By Matías Helbig
Nuevo el Dorado (Economía Salvaje), Miguel Ángel Rojas.

Referring to the forestry law sanctioned in 2012 by the Brazilian government that allows the cutting of four hundred hectares of Amazonian forest per person, Miguel Ángel Rojas puts on the table a critical issue for the whole planet: the indiscriminate destruction and the consequent disappearance of the Amazonia. With the recent assumption of Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president and his economic policy focused on the exploitation of recently protected lands –the new president signed a decree that gives the Ministry of Agriculture the power to delimit indigenous reserves - the work of Rojas takes even more meaning.

“The Amazonia area is, in fact, the Earth’s most important lung, and it is home to an infinite amount of species and communities who live in perfect balance with the environment," writes the Colombian artist. “First, the plots of land which are stolen from the Amazonia are robbed of their wood, and then they are turned into deserts through gold surface mining, or used to cultivate coca. " Placing the large agro-industrial producers, mining companies and drug trafficking as the main responsible for the Latin American territory destruction, Rojas uses mambe (dehydrated and ground coca leaves), gold leaflets, clay taken from the South American tropical region and silver leaflets to intervene the two murals built in serigraphic prints.


Likewise, New El Dorado (A Wild Economy) sets its sights on the public sector as another responsible for the climate crisis and its role as guarantor of a sustainable economy. Rojas explains: "This breathtaking disaster, which is protected by law, does not happen only in Brazil, but also in the rest of the countries contained within the Amazon basin. Given that it is a world heritage site, and with the goal of guaranteeing the future of life, the Amazonian territory should remain untouched. "

Rojas artwork is part of the PRO-REGRESS curatorial proposal established for the Shanghai Biennial that takes place until March 10th. Proposed by Cuauhtémoc Medina, PRO-REGRESS aims to motivate the production of works focused on criticism of the so-called "progress" in contemporary society. " This biennale is devoted to exploring the way contemporary artists discuss and evoke the ambivalent nature of our time," said a member of the Biennial's curatorial team.