Agnes Denes, an iconic feminist, New York–based artist of Hungarian origin, declared in her 1969 Manifesto that she wanted to leave the ivory tower of her studio and enter the world of global concerns, “communicating the incommunicable,” “visualizing the invisible,” “not accepting the limitations society has accepted,” and “persisting in eternal search.” Throughout her life and career, she has imagined and initiated visionary experiments of cohabitation through art. Her well-known statement work, Wheatfield–The Confrontation (1982), two acres of wheat planted on a rubble-strewn landfill in Manhattan near Wall Street, interpreted the heritage of environmental art and turned it into an urban ecological intervention, suggesting where future struggles would take place. Initially realized for the 3rd Autostrada Biennale, Sunflower Fields has involved environmental activists, students, and children, in the continuous, yearly co-creation of two areas covered with sunflowers, one in Prishtina and one in Prizren. For the continuation of Sunflower Fields, Denes installed a translated version of her 1969 Manifesto, this time carved into a mirror surface. The sunflower holds different meanings that vary from culture to culture, yet the beauty and positive energy radiated by these plants inspired the artist to share a message: “When things grow, blossom, life is expressing its transformations and secrets. Watch, listen, participate. We all can be like sunflowers, grow, nourish, endow others with our richness, turn to the sun, then reflect its warmth to all living creatures.”
Agnes Denes (1931) was born in Budapest and lives and works in New York City.
Text by Giulia Menegale & Joanna Warsza