09 November 2020

The Consequences of Forest Exploitation in Northern Spain

09 November 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

By combining her own images with reworked archival materials, Ariadna Silva Fernández explores the negative impact of an economic boom and political neglect on the native woodlands in Galicia, Spain.

Cartography of Oblivion proposes a reflection on the cultural consequences of the native Galician forest loss. The destruction of the Atlantic forest is the result of several political, social, economic and ecological issues that hurt both biodiversity and the memory and collective identity of a large part of Galicia (Spain).

The body of work is presented as a geographical journey with dialoguing elements that refer back to cartography, a field journal, and a family album that becomes undone as the forest slowly disappears. The intent is to reinterpret a broad issue from a singular, subjective, and lyrical standpoint. The journey begins in native forests because of their historical, landscape, and cultural value: within Galician myth, the 'castreños' (celts) regarded oaks and chestnut trees as sacred sources of wisdom and communication channels to the great beyond. The liturgical essence of 'carballeiras' (oak groves) is apparent in the modern-day because they are spaces often used for celebration and festivities, although they are considered areas of leisure and disconnection as well. Therefore, they are also places where both collective and individual memories inhabit an endangered state.

The greatness and sacredness of contemporary native forests are desecrated by the introduction of the eucalyptus tree, an invasive species from Australia that is used to produce cellulose paste and biomass. The exploitation of the eucalyptus has benefited the creeping colonisation of the Galician forest result of neglect and lack of political will. The flammable qualities of the eucalyptus tree become a huge hazard during forest fires, and the circuit closes with ashes as a result of destruction and eradication of all remains. Eucalyptus kickstarts the path towards oblivion; fire escalates it.

Cartography of Oblivion arises from a personal necessity to expose an issue increasingly aggravated by a lack of efficient forest policies and global warming. It's about introspection, healing and reflection on an internal conflict born from the family's connection to forest industry for many past decades. There is a certainty: the Atlantic forest is a legacy that's still part of our present. It is doubtful whether it will be part of our future.

Words and Pictures by Ariadna Silva Fernández.


Ariadna Silva Fernández (b.1996) is a photographer and filmmaker based in Galicia (Spain). Her personal work ranges from photography to experimental cinema. In both disciplines, she uses documentary rhetorics that are interpreted as necessities to delve into her relationship with the natural landscape to build a view of it. Find her on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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