Traumatic Landscapes from Above: Images of Colonization and Violence in the Sea of Plastic Articles uri icon

publication date

  • November 2023

start page

  • 9

end page

  • 30


  • 2


  • 35

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0862-397X


  • The so-called "Sea of Plastic" in Almeria (southern Spain) is the largest concentration of plastic greenhouses in the world. Because of its monumentalism and "accidental aesthetics" (Davis, 2015), this geographic region has been extensively depicted from above by aircrafts, satellites, and drones from the 1950s to the present. The purpose of this paper is threefold: first, it offers a historical account of these images from above (from the ones obtained during the Francoist period for geopolitical purposes to those taken by local farmers today) in order to understand its colonial condition and legacy; second, it explores the significance of these images in the process of institutionalization of the landscape and its use in the ideological battle that takes place in the core of the agribusiness regarding its human and environmental externalities; and finally, it analyzes the tension between the artistic and the political condition of these images. We understand these productions as a visual testimony of the Anthropocene since they allow us to document the ecological violence that has taken place in this space over decades. Nevertheless, we argue that the aesthetic condition of most of the SoP's images creates a distance that ultimately fails to show the consequences of agro-industrial activity in the long term: desertification, aquifers' overexploitation, and long-life plastic waste. Thus, these images allow us to think about the trauma inflicted on ecosystems and the representational challenges involved in representing traumatic landscapes.


  • Information Science


  • aerial images; satellite photography; traumatic landscapes; anthropocene; sea of plastic