BijaRi places its practice within the intersection of art, spatial critique and urban life. Often employing highly researched, collaborative, dialogical methodologies, along with video and music production, its collective work emerges from an urgency to investigate, question and interfere with the discourses that shape the urban landscape in its physical and symbolical dimensions.
The BijaRi collective formed in 1997, its members (Geandre Tomazone, Gustavo Godoy, João Rocha, Maurício Brandão, Olavo Ekman, Rodrigo Araújo) began collaborating as architecture and urban planning students at the University of São Paolo, Brazil. This formation, in many ways, frames the collective’s continuing interest in investigating the struggles that different social groups undergo for the right to the city.
The Contando con Nosotros [(Re)counting on Us] project was developed in 2011 within the Comuna 1 community in Medellín, Colombia, an area on the city´s northern hillside that has been “occupied” by settlements formed by Colombians escaping violence elsewhere in the region over the past several decades. These settlements resulted in the configuration of neighborhoods like Santo Domingo-Sávio, Nuevo Horizonte, Granizal, Popular 1 and Popular 2 that, although geographically connected, were slowly being segmented into distinct ghettos as a consequence of drug violence. Recently, a substantial amount of resources have been invested in the area, for instance the construction of an aerial transport – the Metrocable – as well as many educational and cultural facilities, resulting in a well-documented impact on Medellín’s social and civic imaginary. Contando con Nosotros attempted to go deeper, to analyze the tensions and narratives that exist within Comuna 1, investigating the shifts in the social, economic and sensory fabric that followed the installation of these new urban structures.
BijaRi relied on the support of local community leaders to organize meetings and workshops. Art-educator Manuel Mahecha, for example, was instrumental in the implementation of the group’s “relational box” (a handcrafted box equipped with a sound and video recorder) to which people were asked to recount their personalhistories, wishes, secrets and conflicts, all of which have been recorded to share and preserve the local collective memory. Once recorded, these narrative fragments were then selected, edited and painted on large pieces of cloth installed on the community’s rooftops lying below the Metrocable´s path through Comuna 1. The pieces could be read independently or as a group in a linear narrative as they were syntactically articulated to be read as the cable car progressed along its trajectory, as if they were sequential pages spread over the urban landscape.
This video is a selection of the audio and video recordings done within Comuna 1 and a documentation of the textual and visual installations as seen from the Metrocable. This project was supported and sponsored by the 2011 Encuentro Internacional de Medellín (MDE11) To Teach and to Learn: Spaces of Knowledge in Art.