A Collective Dérive in Bogota’s Downtown

Yesterday we joined a group of 25 people who participated in Conspiración, an art-walk exploration/performance/investigation in Bogota’s downtown, proposed by the Red de Artes Vivas as part of the Pliegues y Despliegues 2019 program. The walk took place in a sector of downtown called Nieves characterized by its density, diversity and movement. This sector, furthermore, has been in the middle of a major public work intervention at the Carrera Septima (7th) that has left most of its streets destroyed, full of cracks and open ruins as if they had suffered an earthquake or a war. Because this public work has taken more than 4 years to be completed (due to infamous inefficient contractors and city government corruption), the Nieves sector has deteriorated in the past years, becoming a sort of post-war area crowded with informal street vendors of all kinds and pedestrians.

For several years I have been a practitioner of the dérive as research creative methodology for exploring, studying, and navigating cities. This method, as outlined by Debord and the Situationists, allows one to study the terrain of the city, and immerse in its psychogeography through emotional disorientations and the rapid drifting through varied ambiences. The dérive is empowering and curious, and very generative. Although not always developed with the same rigor, I have tried to practice this method in my everyday life for several years, leading to different kind of geolocative projects.

Itinerary proposed by the derive “Conspiración” in downton Bogotá.

For this particular time, the dérive named “Conspiración” was proposed by the art collective Red de Artes Vivas, and it was defined as a silent group walk. The walk not only included a trajectory across the Nieves sector in Downtown Bogota, but also some small performative acts developed by members of the collective. The itinerary was planned and included several stops for allowing the members of the group to contemplate the performances, and in some cases, if they wanted, joining them. During this time, we have the opportunity to not only observe micro dance interventions but also appreciate other details of the urban environment, and other actors, pedestrians and citizens that inhabit the Nieves sector

For instance, at the start of the walk, in front of the Biblioteca Nacional, and after having received an introduction to the dérive, members of the collective performed a sort of salutation, that given the background of the institutional building, created a sort of opening to the walk.

Walking down the 24th street we encountered the public work stuff. Materials spread through the street, bricks, sand, rocks, and the usual temporary fence.

At the intersection with the Septima (7th street), two dancers invaded the open construction works and performed some micro actions. Given the density and business of the Septima, several pedestrians also stopped their walk to observe the disruption.

Talking about disruptions, perhaps my favorite one of the “Conspiración” was the one performed one block down the 24th street, at the streetlight of Carrera 9th. Here, several bodies from the group performed statues on the walking zebra, not only during the red light but also when it was green.

After walking through Carrera 9th, the group returned to Carrera Septima, and in front of the Jorge Eliecer Gaitan theater and temporary streetlights we stopped again. At this time the disruption included making noises with the voice, soft and continuing shouts.

Coming back to the Septima, also meant a return to the unearthed infrastructure.

We continued the walk through 22nd Street, a calle surrounded by beautiful and forgotten buildings, including several major theaters like Faenza and Mexico.

Once in Carrera 5th we turned right and continued the walk until Calle 20th. There we took our final turn and came back to the Septima (7th) where we ended the walk at the Plaza de las Nieves (Nieves Square. Through this last mini trajectory, the landscape of huge skyscrapers revealed as a sign of downtown old and new transformations, mixing old churches with new modern buildings as the Torres Barcelona and Bacatá.

Ending the walk at the Nieves public square was powerful, since it took us to the core of this sector. Next to the statue of Sabio Caldas, the group did a final performance that resembled the initial opening in front of Biblioteca Nacional. At this point we shared some reflections about the dérive, and provided feedback to the Red de Artes Vivas members. Personally, I thought the collective art walk functioned well. It was inspiring and powerful to drift the city as a group, in silence. The micro interventions and stops, not only allowed several performances, but also opened space for other observations, and to connections with other pedestrians and vendors, with other infrastructures that are usually overlooked.

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