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Geochoreographies: Carolina Caycedo Versus Social and Natural Erasure

El Quimbo in Construction. Feb, 2013. | Satellite Image
El Quimbo in Construction. Feb, 2013. | Satellite Image


By Pilar Tompkins Rivas

“When the towns get flooded under El Quimbo, there will be nothing left; only memories, but even they get erased by time, because memories only last while those who remember them are alive.” — Anonymous senator and opposition leader speaking about the development of El Quimbo dam in Colombia.

“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 and infrastructural projects including large water dams and reservoirs. On view at 18th Street Arts Center until December 20th, “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 South West of Colombia, 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.

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