Desert Flood: Claudia Comte, Gabriel Rico, SUPERFLEX
Claudia Comte
Gabriel Rico
Jérôme Sans & Cristobal Riestra
February 10, 2023
July 23, 2023

Born after the health crisis of Covid-19, LagoAlgo is a space resulting from a period of radical questioning of our ways of life and their consequences. Focused on current socio-ecological issues, it aims at considering art as a guide toward new models in harmony with nature.

For its third chapter, LagoAlgo presents Desert Flood. The exhibition confronts us with the reality of a world that has become paradoxical. Around contemporary ecological issues - particularly water scarcity, the exhibition Desert Flood brings together the artists Claudia Comte (1983, Switzerland), Gabriel Rico (1980, Mexico) and SUPERFLEX (artist group founded in 1993, Denmark), not as an umpteenth "wake up call," but in the perspective of an ecological thought in action.

From the cell to the planet, every ecosystem is governed by a principle of dynamic equilibrium, a constant homeostatic regulation of physical and chemical conditions, which arrange the living and its environment. Therefore, sustainable development is a semantic aberration. Any species, including our own, functions on a principle of stability, not growth. At a time when such oxymorons are everywhere, the instrumentalization of nature, which is supposed to respond to the "needs of current generations without compromising those of future generations,” is part of a dynamic of commodification whose limits are now very clear.

Combining modernist and pop references into environmental installations, Claudia Comte raises awareness about desertification through her signature cactus sculptures whilst a dreadful laugh invades the exhibition space. Indeed, from the expansion of cities since the first Industrial Revolution to that of desert regions (we witnessed more than 10% expansion of the surface of the Sahara in one century), the artist draws unexpected correlation.Underlining the rise in water levels (up to 14% of the world's population, or 1 billion people, will be affected by 2050), collective SUPERFLEX completes the paradox initiated by Claudia Comte.
Facing these mistakes as the products of the modernist split between nature and culture and an economically-constructed vision of the Earth, Gabriel Rico interrogates our ways to understand and connect to Earth. He explores the possible ways to live with, rather than to occupy the planet.

While the scientific community is unanimous about global warming, the figures are clear and the devastating effects already widely visible. No "global change" seems to have really been initiated. For more than half a century, an infertile debate has thus agitated politics on an axis with two possible directions: progress or regression. In this polarized world in which neither facts nor effects seem to trigger a reaction, the hope of a common metric lies, perhaps, in the world of representation. Formalized in the development of the Gaia Hypothesis by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulies, the notion of global change is a conceptual base, an image, which invites us to consider the Earth as a whole, a complex system with multiple interacting parts. Flooded deserts and dried-up seas: at a time of radicalization of the elements, nature becomes territory, not to be owned but to be inhabited.

Claudia Comte

Known for her environments combining painting and sculpture that bring together what could be thought of, at first glance, as paradoxical aesthetics, the Swiss artist Claudia Comte presents an installation confronting Mankind with the future of terrestrial ecosystems. In her work, the artist plays with a formal and complex economy, to better reveal the frictions of the references she calls upon. On the one hand, she plays with vernacular forms, simplified and recognizable, derived from cartoons as well as from handcrafts. On the other, she turns to more erudite forms of minimal or optical art, diverting the clichés of modernity. Through this meeting of an apparent lightness, she holds a committed discourse on nature and the urgency of its preservation.

With her wall paintings, Claudia Comte takes body and glance through the circularity of the room, without beginning nor end. Geometric and abstract, these walls contrast with the organic nature of the sculptures in the room, creating a vibratory environment that perpetuates the tension initiated by her referential games. In the clinical space of the exhibition transformed here into an arid desert, the artist experiments with distance and reconciliation between the products of a world without climatic and biological logic. Underwater or Northern, in wood or marble, the cactus serves as an ultimate symbol of resistance and resilience, of strength and survival in inhospitable conditions. Camouflaged behind that of a cartoonish America, joyful and optimistic, of the gold rush and of the American Dream, the cactus is inscribed in Comte’s vocabulary as the emblem of a denunciation of general desertification.

Borrowed from the comic books of this same binary culture of good and evil and of the omnipotence of capital, the cactuses answer to the paintings on the walls. Deceivingly light, or detached from the world, the paintings of evanescent images of the disastrous consequences of the Anthropocene take on all their weight and power through contrasts. Coming out of the paintings to invade the ceiling in a black and threatening cloud of helium-filled balloons, the letters H and A pile up in recognizable fonts derived from cartoons or comics shared by all inhabitants of the Western Capitalocene. Whether it is the raucous and Machiavellian laughter of politicians or of the leaders of polluting industries, or the nervous or cynical laughter of people trying to redeem their mistakes, laughter becomes a silent and heavy form. In the face of the ecological disaster images’ loss of power, the laughter, while serious at first, offers us the possibility of another type of awareness: practical, intimate, shared or communicative.  

Gabriel Rico

Self-proclaimed "ontologist with a heuristic methodology,” Gabriel Rico is a collector of the contemporary world. His instruments are the objects of a contemporary cabinet of curiosities, and his laboratory, the art gallery. With methodical patience, he collects heterogeneous objects that he unearths, finds or makes. His installations ironically and poetically combine nature and culture, insisting on a necessary reflection on their asymmetry, as well as on our own cultural and political weaknesses. For Desert Flood, Gabriel Rico presents an installation in which a myriad of neon lights and forms meet the anthropomorphic and composite figures of the contemporary world.

Borrowing its title from the concept of the mathematician Raffaele Bombelli, the multiple neon lights of Cantidades Salvajes (Móvil 1), 2021 are an ode to the complexity of interactions between Man and nature. The installation is composed of four categories of symbols: the five Platonic solids in blue neon, respectively associated with the elements earth, water, air, fire and ether (quintessence), the first five vowels in white, the first five numbers in polished brass, and the five senses of the body in red neon. Through the use of neon and conductive brass, the artist invites us to reinvest knowledge as a source of light, not discord. By playing with symbols of a complex cosmology understood through mathematics, language, senses, physics, chemistry or geometry, Gabriel Rico invites us to play with reason and intuition to understand our place in reality.

With Fish begin to stink by the head, 2021, Gabriel Rico unfolds his reflection initiated by Cantidades Salvajes to question how the surroundings influence not only health but also the psychology of men and their eternal quest for happiness. By assembling various objects chosen for their symbolic power into anthropomorphic agglomerates, the artist's humanoids, both totems and cyborgs, generate a strange feeling of empathy towards the non-living.


Originally founded in 1993 by Jakob Fenger, Rasmus Rosengren Nielsen and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen, SUPERFLEX is an interdisciplinary Danish artist group blending art, science and activism. Often starting from an interrogation of cultural and biological systems and exhibition practices, the works are usually inspired by life forms and technologies, producing ever-changing immersive environments in which humans, animals and lifeless components evolve and grow. Firmly believing in the energy of collaborative and participative dynamics and democratic decision-making process, SUPERFLEX advocates for the emergence of collective intelligences and intends to develop ecologically and economically sustainable experiences.

In the video, a life-size reproduction of the eponymous fast-food restaurant is gradually flooded. Globally recognizable, it is the uniformity of its operation, its furniture and its products that has made the world-famous company commercially successful (with 23 billion dollars in sales and no less than 40,031 restaurants worldwide in 2021). It is because almost everyone has held a tray similar to the one floating in the submerged restaurant that the science fictional image of Flooded McDonald’s, 2009 is so powerfully connected to reality. Pointing out the responsibility of this international firm and its consorts in the global warming, SUPERFLEX underlines, not without audacity, the inevitable wreck in which they drag themselves.

As an ironic counterpoint to the subject of the video and its yellow neon sign, We Are All In The Same Boat, 2018 reminds us of the luminous signs of mega-corporations, territorial markings of light and steel on top of skyscrapers. The installation, composed of LED letters reminiscent of the billboards of globalized capitalism, is curiously weighted down by orange PVC sandbags that evoke the construction sites where the towers that support them were erected, as a reminder of their constructed, ephemeral and fragile nature. Evoking the Earth as a shared whole, the only one we have, the well-known maxim taken up by the collective is first of all an evocation of our shared human condition.

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Photo Credits: Ramiro Chaves