Residencies at Luz
Give Light to Ideas
Exhibition of Installations / Video Art
Show House with Light
from 1st to 7th July 2019

"The recent Guarda-Rios residence in Aldeia da Luz, next to the Guadiana (October 2020), was another confrontation with a river converted into a reservoir – this time the mega-reservoir generated by the Alqueva dam, by the way the most extensive in territory. (250 km2), with a submerged area in Portugal of more than 20,000 ha. The Alqueva project (designated by the acronym EFMA – Empreendimento de Púltiplos do Alqueva) is not a mere dam for water storage and electricity production – it is a visionary dream of regional development for Baixo Alentejo, which was born in the late 1950s. , but it only had the 'green light' in the 90's and it came to fruition at the beginning of the 20th century. XXI (the floodgates closed in 2002). The main driving forces of the desired development would be irrigated agriculture and tourism, since electricity production is not significant on a national scale, with part of the energy generated being consumed in pumping water for the extensive system of irrigation channels (originating from the Álamos Pumping Station and at the Pedrógão dam, downstream from the Alqueva). Regularizing the flow of the Guadiana River and ensuring a strategic reserve of water on the Portuguese side (Spain retains or diverts a large part of its flow) were other declared objectives of the project. However, of those various desiderata, what is closest to being achieved is the transformation of agricultural practice in the surrounding Alentejo region: from cork oak and traditional rainfed crops to irrigated monocultures, in particular with the expansion in recent years of olive groves and intensive and super-intensive (over 100,000 ha).
The irrigation channels originating in the Alqueva are drawing water to the dams in the Beja region and for those in the Sado hydrographic basin, and after a gradual increase in the level of the reservoir since the closing of the floodgates, this year the level lowest since 2004*. We could see this even under the bridge over the reservoir (road from Reguengos on arrival at Mourão), with the different marks of the water level on the pillars being notorious, as well as the stumps of olive trees and holm oaks felled before the dam was filled, which now reappear in the margins. The low water level became even more evident near the river beach of Mourão, where it is already necessary to cross tens of meters of sand to reach the water. As in previous residences in the Tagus and Douro, here too we hear about crafts that have disappeared, submerged archaeological sites and remains, native fish that are replaced by exotic species, megalomaniac undertakings whose construction is stopped halfway through. But what is most impressive are the huge expanses of intensive crops south of the village of Luz or along the road between Évora and Reguengos, fed by the water from the reservoir. It is a whole drastic transformation of the landscape: from the original mosaic of cork oak forests, Mediterranean forest and riparian galleries of the Guadiana, to the monotony of the water mirror of the 'Grande Lago' and the large extensions of regular lines of olive or almond groves, which came together to the vineyards that already occupied extensive areas around Reguengos. The seasonal variability that characterized the course of the waters of the Guadiana, tearing its bed through the schist outcrops, has now been replaced by a mass of still water that floods the landscape, now looking more monotonous and arid than ever."