María José Argenzio


3° 16′ 0″ S, 79° 58′ 0″ W








Multimedia installation

Credits: Photographs by  Juan Pablo Merchán

In her work 3 ° 16 ′ 0 ″ S, 79 ° 58 ′ 0 ″ W  María José Argenzio uses the traditional technique of gold plating to cover a banana plant in the middle of a plantation in her native Ecuador. The title of the work refers to the precise location of the installation. The piece is usually presented through two projected photos. The first is an aerial view which shows the vast green landscape of the banana plantation where the golden banana plant shines out amongst the vegetation. The second is an image of the plant shot upwards from a low point of view, making it seem taller.

In this installation Argenzio brings together two products which were historically in highest demand in Ecuador – bananas and gold – and in a powerful gesture unites the extractive processes which are still ongoing across the land. During the colonial era gold was an indicator of status and wealth, and its mining and trade can be traced across the whole Spanish Empire. Today Ecuador is the world’s biggest exporter of bananas. However, this role in the world economy does have local consequences like the high use of pesticides used to maximize yields. This has harmful effects both on people and the land, whilst the unequal distribution of the earnings through the market chain creates significant social inequalities.  3 ° 16 ′ 0 ″ S, 79 ° 58 ′ 0 ″ W is an artwork which makes these problems visible through its unexpected use of a precious mineral. Gilding the banana plant inverts the values of the products, thus overriding their expected use. The banana plant will die before its fruit may become part of the international trade system and the valuable gold plating, originally destined for use in religious contexts, will be lost in the middle of a plantation. Its value will be reduced to that of an armour of sorts which protects the plant from pesticides, but that ultimately will be unable to save it.