Somewhere in central Colombia, between the eastern and central Cordilleras, in the Magdalena river valley, the municipality of Honda is located. Most of its 27,000 inhabitants, depend on the river for their economic and social activities.

In 2014, the Visualizing Honda Project begins from a concern on expanding our artistic practices and having an impact in specific contexts.

To improve our horizontal communication it was necessary to create a visual language so the local community could identify with our strategy. We used the yellow colour of the Navarro Bridge – the first bridge built in Colombia and a source of pride to the local community – as the unifying language for the whole project.

Once those visual were defined, we began the artistic, pedagogic and community strategies to empower the locals through the use of their natural resources, and their architectonic and cultural heritage.


We created a process we called ‘Urban Acupuncture’, to diagnose the problems of the community and set the objectives of the project. The process worked in 3 steps: community dialogue, diagnosing everyday life, and symbol creation. These three steps act as acupuncture needles with the purpose of healing the diagnosed issues.

From our community dialogue three issues were diagnosed:

1.      As the result of a conflict the community stopped visiting their emblematic hill.

2.      The Magdalena River is severely polluted and fish stocks have been depleted

3.      There is an increasing gentrification of the colonial zone

 

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First, the project aimed at increasing the number of visitors to the Cacao en Pelota hilltop, whose access had been previously restricted and locals were forced to travel through a difficult path to get to the top.

Working with the community, we built a yellow soundbooth on the hill. Its goal was to reactivate the flow of visitors, by giving the hill more visibility. The booth was built so it would contrast the sounds of the surrounding nature with those of the city, reestablishing the local’s connection with their natural environment. Moreover, as it was solar-powered, the booth also became a symbol of sustainability and environmental care.

After the booth, we worked with the community to improve the path’s conditions. This part of the project empowered the community, as they worked collaboratively to improve their living standards. 


Then, we created a photography workshop for the local children. The sons and daughters of local fishermen and students of the Institución Educativa Antonio Herrán Zaldúa, were taught the basics of photography so they could use their own cameras,  giving them the skills tocapture their environment and themselves. 

 
 

How does a simple cardboard box become an empowering tool of individual expression?

From the start, we aimed at showing students a different look on photography - one which contrasts with those of digital technologies (e.g. mobile phones), where the values of immediacy and automatization prevail.

With this in mind, we used a camera obscura photographic technique.  A tiny hole pinned on acardboard box worked as a lense of a process where we used traditional chemical photodevelopment techniques - zero automatisms, one photography at a time. 

 
 

Cyanotypes made by local Caracoli fishermen and their families

The photos from this workshop are the result participation of the whole community of Caracolí, where the elder, adults and the young, including children as young as four, took images of the different river fish and other aspects of the fishermen’s life.

Is it possible to make documentary photography and portray a trade and lifestyle without a camera?

The workshop was a way to understand the importance of traditional fishing in the city. It aimed at keeping a documentary style that transcends its experimental characteristics. With this in mind, the fisherman’s trade was engaged using the tools of their daily experience. The result is a comprehensive view of fishing, using traditional techniques which are represented in their tools. 

For more information visit: https://www.behance.net/gallery/34001470/El-Oficio-del-Pescador


We also made an animated short to raise environmental awareness on the importance of waste management around the river area. Aimed primarily at the younger generations, we projected the short in Honda and other municipalities through which the Magdalena river flows. The project was made in collaboration with animator Tomas Silva Luna.

Furthermore, we carried out film sessions for children of Pacho Mario - Honda’s traditional fisher neighborhood. 


On a similar project, we asked one of the popular local radio stations, Olimpica Stereo 90.5FM, to play the town’s nature sounds instead of the national anthem, which gets played everyday for two minutes at 6AM. Artist Yunyu Ayo Shih, proposed this idea based on the work we had been carrying out on strengthening the bonds between the locals and their environment. 


Sound artists David Vélez y Felipe Rodríguez carried out a sound performance in the town’s cathedral Nuestra Señora del Rosario. The performance was integrated with the church’s proposal to do a sermon on the life of St Francis of Assisi - patron saint of animals and nature. 

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From the success of this experience we decided to use music as a new axis for the project. The sounds of the river and the city give the local communities common imaginaries, defined their identities and strengthen their sense of belonging. With this in mind we collaborated with the local band Conjunto los Amigos, made by Germán “El Mono” Rodríguez and Jorge Rodríguez, who have a vast knowledge of the regions repertoire. We shared a common vision with the band making proposals based on their realistic assessment of the region.

The collaboration resulted in three video clips of traditional local songs accompanied by visuals of the poor conditions of the Magdalena River. Bringing local traditions to highlight some of the community issues we intend to tackle, this part of the project also aims at bridging the gap between forgotten folklore and today’s realities.  

Finally, we identified some of the places in the old colonial part of town where the issue of gentrification is the most obvious. We wanted to feature these areas and get the locals to recognize their importance as historical and cultural patrimony. To do this, we placed yellow flags at the Billar Central, the Plaza de Mercado, the Río Magdalena Museum, the Casa de la Fundación Flora Ars+Natura and the Nuestra Señora del Rosario Cathedral, and highlight, strengthen and consolidate their importance as places of resistance. We also consider doing a series of workshops to accompany this part of the project. 

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All this initiatives aim at generating intersections in the focused artistic practice.
 
(A sound booth, the flags, the paint stroke in the asphalt)  and specific issues
(The uprooting of a hill, the gentrification of a neighborhood, the pollution of a river) with the aim at expanding
the chance of having an impact and the range of action of artistic practices.
This happens through collaborative processes, interdisciplinary interaction and horizontal languages
 
This intersections are the base and philosophy of the project of 4-18 and it is what we call:
Expanding Art