The Art Installation at the Orwell Trenches is Complete [Photo Gallery + Video Walkthrough]

by | Oct 31, 2017

At the beginning of this month of October 2017, after many interventions and a satellite installation for the CDAN Museum of Huesca, the land installation project in the Spanish civil war trenches of the Ruta Orwell has now finally been completed. Homenaje a Los Monegros, the art installation dedicated to The Monegros, George Orwell, and a culture of peace, opened last May 20 2017, also in the presence of the board of directors of The Orwell Society, as well as local institutions and media.

May 20th was the anniversary of the day when George Orwell was shot, and ended his involvement and fighting in the Spanish civil war. As you can read in details in a previous blog posts, getting the installation ready for that date has been a true challenge and a stressful rush again time for several reasons: lack of support from the “supporting institutions”, delays and unavailability of the materials planned to be delivered months in advance, and the parallel work at the CDAN Museum, with an opening just two days before the opening in the trenches.

The non-toxic red painting on white gravel I used as a temporary solution at the Orwell trenches, didn’t survive the summer as expected, being exposed to the harsh conditions of the Monegros desert – high temperatures during the day and low at night, dusty winds, and a few days of massive summer rain storms, a recent classic thanks to the effects of global warming.

I thought the painted red gravel would have lasted until the end of the year (at least this is what the paint seller promised), but the weather turned that nice bright red into a washed-out pink-ish “salmon” color. As you can see in the pictures right above and in other close-ups from the photo gallery at the end of this post there is a huge difference in colour between the faded paint stones and the bright red ones that completed the installation.

The bright red gravel, being industrially painted (always using non-toxic colours), should last a bit more than the previous layer. According to the gravel vendor, the colour should resist the outdoor weather for at least three years outdoors, before eventually fading off, and turning into the brown-ish typical colour of the Monegros landscape. I think two years is a more accurate expectation, also considering the interaction of visitors walking on it – we’ll see. The colour will fade away, but the gravel will stay, so at least the trenches will continue to be accessible. See this article for more details on the preparation work for the land art installation (article in Spanish, but with many pictures).

The last two tons of industrially painted non-toxic red gravel needed to complete the art installation in the Ruta Orwell have been “recycled” from the installation at the CDAN museum in Huesca, that closed last September 24th, 2017. I have to say a big thank you to my good burner friends Tine and Arlo, who came from Barcelona to help me with the big work of “packing” the installation, and cleaning up the area occupied from the installation since last May 18th – you can see both of them at work with me in one of the pictures above.

Also big thanks to the Department of Environmental Services of Comarca Monegros (Servicios Medioambientales), who made a truck and a couple of their resources available to load the red gravel at the CDAN museum in Huesca, and transport it to the trenches in the Ruta Orwell. In retrospective, I believe this was the peak of the assistance the project has ever received from the “supporting institutions”, besides the press conference organized last May 16th by DPH (Diputación de Huesca), which I take the opportunity to thank again for their support to the project.

Planning and creating the installations has certainly been a lot of work, and making the project a reality has also significantly impacted my personal finances this year – but it was completely worth, at least for me. It is sad to see that the “supporting institutions”, specially those who have the honour of hosting the historical landmark of the Ruta Orwell in their territory, have done absolutely nothing to promote the Ruta Orwell (and my installation, for what it matters) during the entire summer. A summer season that it’s the peak of tourism affluence for The Monegros and during which every single city, even the smallest villages, plans local celebrations that normally last from three to five days.

It would have been easy to promote the restored Ruta Orwell by leveraging the “just created” art intervention, but none of the local institutions of the territory has promoted Homenaje a Los Monegros (or George Orwell and the Ruta Orwell, for what it matters) posting something on their websites or social media spaces, or organizing a visit during the local festivities – not even sticking a flyer in the local bars, inviting people to visit the Ruta Orwell. If it wasn’t for this project website, there will be no trace of all the efforts, the dreams, the hard work and the art work that has been kindly “gifted” to The Monegros, its people and its institutions. Pretty much like investing time and efforts to make a great present to somebody, and then seeing your present being thrown away with the trash. Whatever. But this is Monegros, and there is nothing to do about it…

Unfortunately, the trenches of the Ruta Orwell are destined to decay. The total lack of interest in promoting the touristic and historic landmark will bring soon again the Ruta Orwell in that state of abandon and inaccessibility that was before I invested the big part of the “art work” in doing a “maintenance work” to make the place accessible and presentable. When I started working on the trenches installation at the beginning of May 2017 the place was a mud swamp (as you can see in the pictures above), but of course by the opening of May 20th I made it perfectly accessible, even after heavy rains.

Four months later, when I made the final intervention a few weeks ago, there was a new accessibility problem due to total lack of maintenance, as I found the local bush vegetation that grows all along the trenches “invading” the passage in at least six points, making it difficult for people to complete the walk-around.

So again, before engaging in the work of parsing the bright red gravel, I had to spend half a day in doing “gardening maintenance”, clearing out all the passages for the future few visitors to come. While I was at it, I also spent one hour or so in collecting all the trash collected during the summer – plenty of cigarette butts, plastic, paper, a few beer cans an even a broken glass bottle – as obviously nobody cared of picking them up.

This is why I took some new pictures of the “freshly completed” installation, as well as a complete walkthrough video – actually two videos, so you can virtually engage the walkthrough in both directions, clockwise and counter-clockwise, and enjoy the different background landscapes. The pictures of the gallery have been taken in two different moments: right before sunset immediately after completing the work (with a strong yellow light), and the very next morning, that happened to be foggy – not perfect for catching the bright red, but it make the surrounding landscape magic and surreal.

With this post I officially close the project blog, and the project itself. The OrwellMonegros website will be archived at the Burningmax website. Let me type the very last word of the last post to thank again those who have supported and appreciated the project, those who have visited and enjoyed the art installations at Ruta Orwell and CDAN, and my inseparable black labrador Davola for being my companion in the long days and nights alone in the Sierra of Alcubierre.


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Orwell Monegros Remixed Summer 2019

Orwell Monegros Remixed Summer 2019

Summer 2019, a new intervention for the Orwell Monegros Project, the land art installation in the Spanish civil war trenches where George Orwell fought back in 1936. Enjoy the photo gallery.

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