Posted on March 27, 2012
From the start, Estación Tijuana‘s focus in the Medellín project on the urgent need to de-essentialize the border (in this case the one between the US and Mexico) has been both obvious and attractive for me as an artist-anthropologist. I was included in the project as a ‘native/other’—in light of the fact that I was not born in the area, but I chose it as a partial origin for my self at some point—and my main interest has been to amplify this sense of belonging/not belonging in Medellín. The initial proposal was to focus this time not on the concept of difference but on that of “affinities.” Naturally affinity in the sense of “family resemblance” (Wittgenstein) and not in the sense of isomorphisms.
In Tijuana, above all after completing the book Aquí es Tijuana / Here is Tijuana—an investigation into the city that lasted two and half years in collaboration with an architect and a writer-philosopher—I learned how the city constantly generates signs and how those signs are tangible elements of differences and affinities. Those traces—which are imprinted on pieces of concrete in the city itself, on its posters, on residual images, on the bodies of dogs run over in the streets, on lost change, words and gossip, the remains of abandoned movie theaters, signs of violence contained in lost bullets, on holes in home doors or robbed stores, on the front pages of newspapers, in the culture that reacts to that violence, etc. These signs speak for the urban space, defining it through those fragments. In addition, considering the curatorial project within which we were included in this Biennial as Proyecto Coyote, I set out to learn more about Medellín as I collected some of its fragments. At the same time, I attempted to impart to the people of Medellín my own knowledge of urban space in general and Tijuana’s signs in particular. When it came time to assemble what I saw in terms of affinities between an emblematic city like Medellín and another like Tijuana, having learned about the Colombian city, I hoped to give back my own partial knowledge of the Mexican border city to some parts of the city, thus establishing a cognitive circle that would continue informing the two cities and myself without interruption.
Once I arrived for my residency in Medellín, my project was once again transformed by the specificity of this particular site, and by another similar project by a longtime friend and a collaborator, Ingrid Hernández, a photographer from Tijuana. Once in Medellín, the two of us immediately began to collaborate, with the same anthropological and artistic “intention” that guided us in Tijuana when we developed fieldwork together in the city. In this way, the Afinidades / Affinities project became a comparative one, shared and developed through revitalized methodological affinities: we decided to multiply the sociological, artistic and anthropological perspectives, from a multiple perspective which the two of us share; both of us educated in social/cultural and artistic traditions. The result has been two weeks of intense work in the field, carried out through trips through the city, taking photographs, reviewing the photographic archive of Tijuana and having conversations with researchers, teachers, taxi-drivers, merchants and residents of the many neighborhoods of Medellín. Finally, the affinities between Tijuana and Medellín are illustrated in sixteen photos, which could have been taken interchangeably in either the Mexican or the Colombian city.