SMArt: Artists' Views of the Mountain

[caption id="attachment_3476" align="alignright" width="300"]The wolf’s figure crystallizes a feeling of fear, sometimes visceral and irrational. The wolf’s figure crystallizes a feeling of fear, sometimes visceral and irrational.


SMArt – or Sustainable Mountain Art – is a Swiss-based program that aims to raise awareness of the challenges mountains face through art, and more specifically photography. The program hopes to awaken consciences by touching the heart and emotions rather than the intellect.
‘The wolf at the door’ is a fresco by Colombian photographer Juan Arias, realised in autumn 2017 in the Sierre in the Swiss canton of Valais. He was invited by the SMArt program to look at the reality of this mountain region.

Preparing for his stay from his home in Cali, Juan Arias discovered that a wolf had been illegally killed in Valais. Interested in human relationships and the underlying representations that influence these relationships, he instinctively understood the scope of this story and decided to tackle this delicate theme: the return of the wolf in the Swiss Alps.

Juan Arias likes to work with metaphors that provoke reflection on the issues raised by his photographs. To the surprised spectator, who expects to discover photos of wolves, he presents a subtle look at our relationship to nature – wild and uncontrollable. Nature comes into conflict with a society geared towards technological progress and which measures its success by the ability to control.

The photographer thus confronts us with our visceral and irrational fear of facing the uncontrollable, the Other, the change. He also confronts us with the violence that sometimes emerges in response to this fear, and questions our relationship with our own animality in a civilization that is largely cut off from its connection with nature.

[caption id="attachment_3477" align="aligncenter" width="2048"]The wolf is also a figure of the uncontrollable that change and interbreeding carry within them. The wolf is also a figure of the uncontrollable that change and interbreeding carry within them.


Art for mountains
The SMArt program was created by the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions (FDDM), and exists thanks to the support, in particular, of the Direction for Cooperation and Development and the Canton Valais.

Since 2014 around fifteen artists, mainly from southern countries, have been invited to bring a fresh look, marked by other cultures, to the reality of Switzerland's mountain regions. Each residence leads to a series of photographs, always very personal, addressing themes such as climate change, water management, migration, agriculture, or – more generally – our relationship with the environment.

These photographs are presented in individual and collective exhibitions in Switzerland and around the world. They extend intercultural sharing and offer the opportunity to create rich exchanges with the audience.

[caption id="attachment_3473" align="aligncenter" width="1835"]Faced with fear, our reactions are sometimes violent. Faced with fear, our reactions are sometimes violent.


Over the years, the program has founded a community of artists concerned by mountains. Their work is supported and valued by various cultural partners around the world. In Switzerland, the program now creates a link between the country's mountain regions with residences in Valais, Ticino, Grisons, and – soon – Uri.

In future, SMArt will continue this innovative approach to foster and grow this broad network of artists, cultural institutions, and financial partners to serve mountains and the challenges they face.

Next exhibition: ‘On est ensemble,’ M’hammed Kilito, Morocco. A series on migration to be seen at MAXXX Projet Space, Av. Max Huber 12 and Sierre city center, from 24th May to 10th June 2018.

To discover the full series ‘The wolf at the door’ and learn more about SMArt see www.sustainablemountainart.ch
To learn more about FDDM see www.fddm.ch
This post was written by Sarah Huber, who works as project manager at the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions in Sion, Switzerland.
[caption id="attachment_3474" align="aligncenter" width="1707"]The wolf questions civilization's relationship to nature. The wolf questions civilization's relationship to nature.

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