In the 1960s an art movement was born which rejected the locating of art in the traditional habitat of the gallery or museum. Artists such as the American sculptor Robert Smithson reacted to an encroaching commercialization of art typified in the Pop Art movement, by taking their work into the great outdoors, where they would use natural, sustainable materials to create sculptures embedded in the natural landscape.
Central to this 'Land Art' or 'Earthworks' movement was the notion of art belonging to its surroundings and being left to erode at the mercy of the elements. Perhaps the most iconic example of the Land Art movement is Smithson's Spiral Jetty, a 460 metre-long quay sticking out into Utah's Great Salt Lake. Over the years, the lake's rising and falling tides have at times exposed or concealed the work of art, which is made entirely of basalt rock, salt crystals and earth. In a care case of art nurturing its environment, the presence of the jetty has also inspired activists to deter the efforts of oil companies to drill in the area.
Now, half a century after the movement began in New York, a new generation of Land Artists has been inspired by the impact of climate change. And the Principality of Andorra, thanks to a biennial art festival, is fast becoming a site of pilgrimage for the movement.
The 2017 Biennal Internacional Andorra Land Art (the second of its kind after the inaugural event in 2015) is now up and running. Between now and August 28, the festival will give visitors a chance to observe the symbiosis between works of over 70 artists from twelve different nations and the natural backdrop of the Pyrenees mountains.
The central theme in this year's festival is a dramatic narrative witnessed for centuries by the Andorran mountain landscape; the refugee's journey. Whether it be Spanish Republicans fleeing Falangist retribution at the end of the Civil War or Jews fleeing Nazism in the other direction years later, thousands of refugees have used the Via Andorra - the Andorran Way - as a path to safety across the border.
The refugee's journey is represented by the festival's Camino de los Derechos Humanos, a conceptual pilgrimage between two of Andorra's main ports of entry, Coll de Jou and Port de Siguer. Along this route are the bulk of the festival's main obras de arte.
Highlights include Toni Cruz's Vaques (illuminated cows grazing on a hillside by the romanesque church of San Juan de Caselles), Tito Farre's giant red chair ('SIT') and David Vanorbeek's Praying Mantis (made from recycled, pesticide-rusted wire from French vineyards).
The festival also heralds the reopening to the public of the handsome Fabrica de la Lana, Andorra's old Wool Factory, which is offering a contemporary art exhibition under the umbrella of the Fundació Sorigué. At the Zona Ras, beside Lake Engolasters, budding artists are encouraged to come along and create their own Land Art for public view.
The festival is free. You can find out more here: http://andorralandart.com/