THE BITTER TASTE OF SWEETNESS
Mabiti Hotel, AlUla, Saudi Arabia
18 February 2023 — 18 March 202Si
Completed in AlUla Artist Residency 2022
Supported by the Royal Commission of AlUla in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Site-specific installation, acrylic on canvas, bilingual publication, sound piece, performance
The Bitter Taste of Sweetness is a varied body of work that tells us with candour: the sweetness of dates carries the burden and bitterness of their harvest. By going back and forth between his writing work and the various other disciplines he practises (painting, photography, publication, musical creation, and performance), Augustine Paredes deploys his narration through a multiplicity of objects. Integral to the work is a first-person story about a farmer-labourer hired by a farm owner looking to tend to his trees and harvest their dates. This story, where realistic and fantastic notes are mixed, is accompanied by a collection of poetry written from three perspectives: the universe’s, the palm tree’s, and the farmer’s. Both are central elements of the zine published by the artist, and are also the common thread to the set of shimmering paintings that he presents in a crystalline pavilion in the palm grove of Mabiti AlUla. The paintings illustrate the scenes and characters of the farmer-labourer’s story and yet digress from it to become images that convey their own independent narratives. The inside of Augustine Paredes’s pavilion is bathed in the sounds of his poems, transformed into electronic lullabies that he composed throughout the residency.
The start of Augustine Paredes’s residency in AlUla coincided with the season of date palm harvest, a time in which the affinity between a date palm and its farmer is generally muddied. During this time, scenes of farmers pursuing the bounties of the trees they had been mothering are plentiful and conflicting: the unrelenting climb to their crowns, the destructive intent but tender and warm embrace of every stretch of their trunks, the tragic fall and imminent disintegration of their bunches, and the final act of pummelling to detach the last surviving fruits and burn the remains. The convoluted relationship of tenderness and violence between humans and date palms led Augustine Paredes to pursue a line of inquiry into the religious, literary, agricultural, social, and migratory phenomena surrounding the cultivating and transacting of dates.