The Magdalena River in Colombia was recently given rights as a legal entity. Although this change is important, it is still difficult to think of actions to preserve Colombian rivers, which have been immersed in the country’s conflicts for so long. All of Colombia’s blood and life have flown through the Magdalena River which always played a fundamental role in all cultural, economic, and political aspects of the country.
The River—a video work by Juan Cortés and Atractor Studio—assumes a non-human perspective on the rivers. Like an Uroboros, a river is both an origin and a destination where past, present, and future intertwine. In the river, we see a reflection of a history parallel to ours where relations are both calm and turbulent, symbiotic and parasitic. Rivers regulate the dynamics of biological relations, connecting territories and dividing them, transporting in their rapid flows microorganisms, minerals, seeds, insects, animals, stories, and cultures.
The River is a project in which Atractor Studio puts to use digital tools in order to find another model of relationship between humans and a river, where the river tells its own story reflecting our history and our present.
The Migrants is a multimedia performance and video game created by Juan Cortés and Atractor Studio. The work is based on a true story of bird migration in 2014. Golden Warbler birds faced adverse conditions due to global warming that generated storms on the coast of Florida, which was their main destination. This caused the birds to alter their migration routes, being forced to explore an alternative route through Mexico and Central America until they reached Colombia.
During the performance, the protagonist of the game controls the movement of a bird that is part of a flock, in order to guide it on its migratory journey from a forest in Canada to the mountains of Tolemaida in Colombia, helping it to overcome obstacles and reveal food to feed itself and the flock. To this end, the artist has designed a prosthesis with sensors that allow him to translate the movements of his body to the bird on the screen, thus assimilating Amerindian traditions and practices that adopt the animal’s point of view to interpret and narrate events.
The migration of flocks of birds is a phenomenon that also contributes to the maintenance of ecosystems, because the birds, in their journey, collect and disperse seeds. The work thus invites reflection on the complexity of migration and displacement in the human sphere as well, whose realities are rooted in political, economic and climatic contexts that also lead to the production of new cultural and social fabrics. Rethinking the relationships between technology, the animal world and culture through art offers the possibility of imagining new scenarios where biodiversity as the production of difference from nature recovers its power in a gesture of resistance.