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“Pequeño laboratorio del imaginario social” [Small-scale Social Awareness Laboratory] is a lecture written by the artist Rolf Abderhalden and delivered at the Cátedra Manuel Ancízar (2006) at the National University of Colombia. It includes a discussion of the poetic and conceptual foundations of the Proyecto C’undua (2000–2003), a joint project organized by the Mapa Teatro collective and the City Hall of Bogotá. Abderhalden discusses the development of an artistic project based in “fringe communities” in the heart of the city of Bogotá, whose goal is not to establish socio-therapeutic projects but to consider artistic practices that promote thoughtful languages and group creative processes that are not designed to mitigate social problems. As a result, the “experimental laboratory” contradicts the dynamics inherent in social intervention policies and social work by prioritizing the agencies that provide artistic practices.
At the invitation of the private secretary to the mayor of Bogotá, Alicia Eugenia Silva, the Mapa Teatro collective, and an interdisciplinary group of artists and social researchers developed the project in 2000 called C’undua (which in the mythology of the indigenous Arhuaco people of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta means “the place where we go after we die”) to address aesthetic concerns in communities whose rights were being threatened. This initiative was important because it was based on artistic mechanisms linked to social processes; that is, alternative mechanisms to the social intervention policies hitherto applied by local authorities. The collective created the Laboratorio del imaginario social [Social Awareness Laboratory] inspired by readings of works by Heiner Müller (1929–1995) on the “Laboratorio del imaginario” and by the Argentine Reinaldo Laddaga (b. 1963) on the “experimental community.”
The artist Rolf Abderhalden (b. 1956), the creative director of the project, developed the methodological structure for the “Pequeño laboratorio del imaginario social” [Small-scale Social Awareness Laboratory] that enabled Mapa Teatro to operate within that context. Mapa Teatro continued to operate until 2003, sponsoring a number of projects, including: Prometeo I acto, Prometeo II acto, and Re-Corridos. The C’undua project, as well as Piel de la Memoria [The Skin of Memory] by the anthropologist Pilar Riaño and the North American artist Suzanne Lacy (b. 1945) (see: “Hacer arte público como memoria colectiva, como metáfora y como acción” [Making public art as a collective memory, as a metaphor, and as action], doc. no. 1093626) and Ciudad Kennedy: Memoria y realidad [Kennedy City: Memory and Reality] by the Colombian artist Raúl Cristancho (see: “Ciudad Kennedy: Memoria y realidad. Proyecto colectivo de creación plástica” [Kennedy City: Memory and Reality. Visual Art Collective Project], doc. no. 1098571), among others, help to document the socioartistic projects developed by various Colombian institutions.
This article was originally published in the memoirs of the C’undua Project sponsored by the Mapa Teatro collective and the Bogotá City Hall. It was presented as a lecture at the Cátedra Manuel Ancízar in 2006, and subsequently included in the book Arte y localidad: Modelos para desarmar [Art and Location: Models for Disarming].