uncover RECOVER


Social Project / Installation (36 species of medicinal plants cultivated using soil from a recently exhumed mass grave from the Spanish Civil War)

Dimensions variable


Uncover RECOVER is a social artwork and installation that was curated by Blanca de la Torre and developed for Artium, the Basque Museum of Contemporary Art. Inspired in part by Jorge Luis Borges’ Spanish translation of “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman, the project began by contacting Aranzadi, the Basque scientific association that is carrying out the polemic task of exhuming mass graves from the Spanish Civil War. After they agreed to collaborate in my poetic transformation of death back into life, I visited a grave near Pamplona to learn about the exhumation process and to collect the soil that I would later use to cultivate medicinal plants in the museum setting.

I sourced the seeds of the medicinal plants from a local provider, with the exception of ginkgo biloba which I collected from a tree behind the market in Vitoria-Gasteiz. As a reference I used the Dr. Vander’s book “Plantas Medicinales”, which was published during Franco’s dictatorship. The project was part of the “Praxis” series of exhibitions curated by Blanca de la Torre, which focused on the active participation of artists within the museum. In my case, this involved germinating the plants and taking care of them on a regular basis, which gave me the opportunity to learn from visitors about their experiences of the war.
The installation included a small waiting room that provided information about the Spanish Civil War and the polemic act of exhuming the mass graves. Here, visitors could sign their names to a list to adopt the plants at the end of the exhibition. The people who adopted the plants received signed adoption papers that included information about the medicinal plants and their healing capacities.
One of my favourite and unexpected aspects of the project was receiving a variety of images of the adopted plants flourishing in their new homes. In the end, the soil and the plants returned to the territory from which they came, and the project itself dissipated into the society that inspired it.