The seemingly extraterrestrial camera eye floats upside down through a palm grove planted in a strictly rectilinear manner. Nature is literally upside down and existing in an artificial order as a business game. Only at the crescendo of the strange, vibrantly smoldering soundtrack by Jung an Tagen does the gaze slowly turn clockwise. Then, cut: quietness, open space.
At some point the logo “Valley Pride” can be read in the middle of the California desert, on oversized corrugated iron sheets, designating one of the most important commercial areas of US industrial agriculture. It’s an inhospitable place, whose increasingly bizarre unnaturalness is conveyed through Lukas Marxt’s unmistakable approach. Visually stunning, the monocultural agrarian symmetry and its ballet of irrigation testify to man’s self-extinction in the service of constant profit orientation – even if the necessarily anonymous workers return to the picture in this, Marxt’s fourth visual examination of the Imperial Valley. Under the sword of Damocles of unclear residence status and a US immigration policy that ranges from rigid to ignorant, the personal destinies and stories behind them must remain untold. The people are the smallest cog in the wheel of work in the gigantic agricultural machine trimmed for optimization, as it buries ecological and ethical standards under the relentless shoveling and plowing equipment. In front of endless rock formations and dancing mirages caused by the heat, they fertilize, harvest, and pack lettuce in a quasi-automated routine. In near-astonishment, the camera eye observes this hustle and bustle as it occurs in a leafy place where no greenery was intended. This is a place where fertility and death collide mercilessly and the threatening catastrophe – social, economic, ecological – is inscribed in every image, no matter how innocent. Here, beauty meets decay and exploitation as a man-made dystopia. That, too, is Valley Pride – a pride with an expiration date. (Sebastian Höglinger)
Translation: John Wojtowicz
Valley Pride represents one of California´s most important regions of industrial agriculture. Corporate agricultural production interests have been able to successfully cultivate and exploit this geological part of the Sonora desert through a gigantic irrigation system fed by the Colorado River, as well as the All-American Canal specifically engineered for this purpose and which attained sad notoriety through the Mexican migration movement. The system´s run-off flows through pipes, pumps and canals leading to the Salton Sea, an artificial lake that is approaching ecological as well as economic disaster, just as bordering regions of Mexico. (production note)