Be Dammed is a research-based project by artist Carolina Caycedo that explores concepts of flow and containment, investigating correlations between the mechanisms of social control and the unethical aspects of public works infrastructural projects including large water dams and reservoirs. Be Dammed encompasses sculpture, photography, video and a performance series, and reflects the artist’s ongoing query into the development of mega-infrastructures over natural and social landscapes. Within this body of work, Caycedo conceptually embeds an analogous, contiguous relationship of tactical constraint and crowd control, as exercised by police and military over group protests and public demonstrations.
Focusing on the case study of El Quimbo, a hydroelectric dam currently under construction along the Magdalena River in Colombia, Caycedo draws attention to physical, economic and societal power structures interrupting the flow of socio-political organizing and resistance efforts through a body of interrelated artworks. El Quimbo is the first hydroelectric power project in Colombia to be constructed by a transnational, private corporation, signifying the transition of this geographically, ecologically and historically important public body of water into a privatized resource. As a principal river connecting the Caribbean coast to the interior of Colombia and Ecuador, the Magdalena River has been significant since the pre-Columbian era as a stronghold of early civilizations, later as a navigation route during the Spanish conquest of the Americas, and in contemporary times as a cultural and economic backbone of the region. Now diverted and channeled for the construction of the dam, its watershed is in the process of geographical and ecological corporatization while local, native communities are forcibly and nefariously displaced.
Artworks in Be Dammed examine the interconnected spheres of legal, physical, and psychological social control. As part of her research for the two channel video The headlong stream is termed violent, but the river bed hemming it in is termed violent by no one, for example, Caycedo conducted interviews with a range of individuals affected by and involved with the development of El Quimbo including an activist, an environmentalist, an oppositional leader, a professor, a shaman, a local fisherwoman, and the dam’s engineer, to develop an understanding of this complex triad. Manifesting these relationships in performative-based works, Caycedo continues her collaboration with contemporary dancer Rebeca Hernandez exploring the choreography of power, as exemplified by crowd control techniques, restrictive paramilitary holds, and barrier systems designed to contain civil disobedience. On-site and off-site performances will take place throughout the project. Other discrete artworks such as the sculpture Manopla Triple Arco/Three Arched Knuckle draw parallels between the architecture of dams and the structural forms used for physical domination.
Within her residency and exhibition, Caycedo asks an open-ended, on-going set of questions relative to the nature of dams and power structures. “If the social promise of economic development is a distraction technique touted by multinational corporations to develop mega-structured today, could the promise of security be a distraction technique employed by military and police to achieve a state of social repression?” “Is corporate construction of dams in Latin America a continuation of colonialism?” “Is a dam a siege of nature?” “Is security a siege of community?”
Carolina Caycedo’s Artist Lab Residency at 18th Street Arts Center and all associated events have been made possible through the generous support of the Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Division, Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and Los Angeles County Arts Commission.