• Mal de Caña (Cane Malice)
    Juan Alfonso Zapata
    Juan Alfonso Zapata

Juan Alfonso Zapata, multifamily barrack, 2015, Dominican Republic. Copyright: the artist.

Thousands of kilometers of Dominican land are still covered by sugarcane plantations. One of these is a homogeneous carpet spreading over 75,000 hectares hosting forty small company towns called bateys. Living conditions in these communities is precarious at best, lacking many basic services and planned as isolated oases in a vast and otherwise deserted sea of grass. Mal de Caña captures the alienating tranquility of these places, seeking to understand the mechanism by which landscape is transformed into a silent and coercing force, a machine designed to get the most out of every element of the production chain and minimize any significant build up of unwanted weeds. Someone sat down to draw the dirt roads and wooden shacks without minimum living standards, isolated from one another and the rest of society. We want to imagine what they were thinking at the moment.

Juan Alfonso Zapata is a visual artist and architect from the Dominican Republic, as well as a founding member of Grupo Fotográfico de Santiago (GRUFOS). He earned his MArch from the Berlage Institute, where he focused on documenting recent transformations in the Dutch landscape. Among his awards are the International Photography Prize Wilfredo Garcia, the “Best Entry Award” at the 2nd Rotterdam Architecture Biennale for the research project Al-Caribe, as part of Supersudaca (2008), and being selected for the Eduardo León Jimenes Awards in 2012 and 2016. His past exhibitions and screenings include the Barcelona Landscape Biennial, the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, and Les Rencontres Internationales at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Zapata has served as a teacher and lecturer on architecture, landscape, and audiovisual media at several institutions in Latin America and Europe.