The Ministry of Cultures, Arts and Heritage and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Chile present Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol
at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.
This is a collective project which, in this age of climate crisis, seeks an experimental path toward raising awareness of preserving peatlands. The wetland ecosystem is highly efficient at capturing carbon from the atmosphere, yet it remains one of the least researched and most vulnerable. The pavilion is curated by Camila Marambio, whose work blending art, science, and traditional knowledge promotes eco-cultural research and practices transitioning from extractivist practices to environmental humanities. The project contributes to the Biennale Artes 2022 central theme, "The Milk of Dreams", with an investigation into the peatlands of Patagonia and a transdisciplinary practice that protects their wellbeing.
"Hol-Hol Tol" is the heart of the peatlands in the language of the Selk'nam people, one of the original inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, in Patagonia.
This curatorial project aims to bring visibility to these important ecosystems in the context of climate change, with a repair process based on the intersection of science, fiction, and traditional knowledge. The exhibition allows viewers to immerse themselves in the material and ancestral experience of the peatlands with a multi-sensory installation. The installation highlights an aesthetics of care and art motivated by real commitments to make progress on ecological action.
Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol brings together an interdisciplinary team of Chilean artists: sound artist Ariel Bustamante, art historian Carla Macchiavello, filmmaker Dominga Sotomayor, and architect Alfredo Thiermann. These artists were guided by co-curatorial scriptwriters Bárbara Saavedra, an ecologist specializing in biodiversity, and Selk'nam writer Hema'ny Molina, assisted by cultural producer Juan Pablo Vergara, and joined creatively by many others: Rosario Ureta (design), Mateo Zlatar (web design), Carola del Río (web design), Sebastián Cruz (museography), Nicolás Arze and Christy Gast (art direction), Benjamín Echazarreta (photography direction), Isabel Torres (voice), Constanza Güell (catalog), Fernanda Olivares (Selknam guide), Nicole Püschel (climate change and biodiversity), Antonia Peón-Veiga (lighting), Susanne Abel, Matthias Krebs, Jan Peters (Sphagnum Lab), Freja Carmichael, Caitlin Franzmann, Randi Nygård, Renee Rossini, Karolin Tampere, Agustine Zegers, Simon Daniel Tegnander Wenzel (scent), and Alessandra Dal Mos (Italy production).
The Selk'nam people freely inhabited Tierra del Fuego and lived with the peat bogs of their ancestral land for 8,000 years, until the colonizers responsible for their genocide arrived. Official history insists that the Selk'nam people were wiped out, but today the Selk'nam community rejects that myth, in a movement to be recognized as a living culture with its own language. The Selk'nam Cultural Foundation Hach Saye is an integral part of the creative process for Turba Tol. It teaches us that their rights and the rights of the peatlands are interdependent, and that these ecosystems must be recognized as a living body. Beyond Chile, cultural history proves that peatlands all over the world play a fundamental role in indigenous cultures and other ancestral traditions, and therefore they urgently need to be valued as a reservoir of memories.
On an increasingly hot and dry planet, these wetlands are in danger. Their preservation is intrinsically linked to the future wellbeing of humanity, planetary balance, and, in Patagonia, to the empowerment of the Selk'nam people.
Peatlands have a crucial impact on regulating the global climate. They absorb more carbon than forests, a capability that makesthese wetlands one of the most valuable ecosystems on the planet. Peatlands are exposed to grave threats: mining, wildfires, peat moss harvesting, and draining for development. Additionally, once drained and destroyed, they go from being carbon sinks to sources of greenhouse gas emissions. These wetlands challenge us to create a new, turbulent, multivocal aesthetic that recognizes the histories of the Patagonian peatlands, highlighting their significance as a stronghold against climate change in the Southern Cone.
Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol stems from the ongoing research of the Ensayos Group, in close collaboration with the WCS Chile Wildlife Conservation Society Chile, Karukinka Park in Tierra del Fuego, and the Selk'nam Cultural Foundation Hach Saye. The projects website (www.turbatol.org) is designed as a dynamic arts and sciences platform for peatlands all over the world. It will be a way of attracting people to the Chilean Pavilion while disseminating information about preserving the peatlands of Patagonia and beyond. Its endurance over time relies on several different outlets, which include a convening, a book, and the global launch of the Peatlands of Patagonia Initiative.
With an international focus, the symposium aims to create global awareness of the importance of peatlands by having experts in ecological preservation, environmental arts, and political policies sign an agreement (The Venice Agreement) on June 2, World Peatlands Day. The book will be a compendium of eco-cultural thought by female Latin American authors who bring together voices that focus attention on the struggles, lifestyles, and experiences of care from the south.
Leveraging the visibility of the peatlands in Venice, the Peatlands of Patagonia Initiative will take up the work of Turba Tol on the ground, maintaining the network of local stakeholders who protect the biodiversity of these ecosystems. The peatlands and their people will only be able to continue to breathe when there is an international awareness of their importance for mitigating climate change and regulating water cycles.