Image Analysis (Opinion): Wheatfield, Agnes Denes

Wheatfield: A Confrontation, Agnes Denes, 1982
Agnes Denes is an Environmental Artist, interested in Ecological Activism, who creates interventions in the landscape on a massive scale. Wheatfield was executed in 1982 on an area of land worth $4.5billion in Battery Park within the financial district in New York.

The project took a year to complete, as it encompassed the whole cycle of clearing the waste ground, preparing the ground with fertiliser and soil, sowing the seeds, helping it grow and then harvesting the crop. The wheat was sold after harvest and people bought seeds to plant elsewhere in the world, spreading the project globally.

The vision of the field set firmly in front of the high-rise buildings behind is a striking contrast, and coupled with the figure of Denes striding confidently through the ripe wheat brings to mind Soviet Art with a surreal twist. In Wheatfield the basics of farming, agriculture and survival are brought right under the noses of people whose lives benefit from it but who are very far removed from it, creating a dialogue between two vastly differing portrayals and landscapes of America.

The piece is intended to call into account the shifting of humanistic and nature-based values to those of cold hard business and real estate. As such: wheat is a good choice of crop for the project: it is a cash crop, the staple of most countries diets and the most common grain grown in America. In the year that Wheatfield: A Confrontation was concluded 75,250 Metric Tonnes of wheat was harvested across the US.

Using wasteland for growing wheat on a small-scale, volunteer run basis is as much a comment on the surroundings of the piece as it is on the way in which food is now produced for human consumption. Wheat is farmed industrially and the production of it is in many ways just as far removed from humanitarian concerns and naturalistic values as the financial services are.

** During semester one of my Second Year of Contemporary Art Practice, we were set eight images to analyse in order to practice Art Writing. I will present the series backward. This is image five. **

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