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    El mundo está en mi cabeza. Mi cuerpo está en el mundo / Natalia Gutiérrez
    Ciudad- espejo / Natalia Gutiérrez. --- Bogotá, Colombia : Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2009
    p. 51- 58 : ill.
    Book/pamphlet article – Essays

    drug addiction; photography; poverty

This text by curator Natalia Gutiérrez was published as a chapter in the book ciudad ? espejo (Bogotá: Facultad de Artes de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2009). It provides a thorough description of the work La vida es una pasarela (2002?2004) by Jaime Ávila. Gutiérrez discusses how the artist takes photographic portraits of a marginal sector of the population of Bogotá pejoratively referred to as “ñeros” (for compañeros, or mates in Spanish) and of their living conditions. These are men and women who live in urban poverty and a state of deterioration due to drug addiction. Some of the “ñeros” potrayed were friends of Ávila. Gutiérrez also addresses the complex paradox of urban space in Bogotá. She asserts that the individuals portrayed in La vida es una pasarela cannot be categorized as vagrants since the street is their permanent home. These individuals at the margins of society delimit their territory with stack of rags. This chapter contains twelve color photographs.


This text by Natalia Gutiérrez revolves around a text by Jaime Ávila (b. 1966), the creator of the work discussed. Gutiérrez describes Ávila’s text as “an affective manifesto” that formulates his complex vision of the problem of drug addiction. Ávila’s text is based on the personal experience of having seen a number of his acquaintances fall into addiction to substances like cocaine and “bazuco,” or crack. The text addresses as well the violence that beset Bogotá in the nineties as the wars between drug traffickers and the State gave rise to difficult urban dynamics pursuant to, for instance, former hit men migrating from Medellín to the slums of Bogotá.


Jaime Ávila’s work revolves around the issue of the Latin American city and the residual spaces (margins of error) that it contains, spaces inhabited by persons that evidence social failure and segregation. One representative work along these lines is 10 metros cúbicos, an installation of a thousand photographs laid out like boxes that, in turn, form a one-meter cube repeated ten times. The photographs show marginal and impoverished places in dozens of Latin American cities, among them Bogotá, São Paulo, Caracas, Lima, Quito, Buenos Aires, and others. 


Ávila asserts that Latin American cities do not follow a model of urban planning but, rather, take the shape of a living organism. The survival mechanisms of the inhabitants of these residual urban spaces are similarly alien to any form of social planning; they operate, rather, according to either tribal and primitive or physiological codes. 


Another work by Ávila that addresses how the structure of the Latin American urban landscape modifies, deforms, and transforms the subject’s identity is Los radioactivos (1996), a series of photographic portraits of marginal children and teenagers from Bogotá who, despite a context riddled with conflict and hardship, pose with an air of glamour, extravagance, and indestructibility as if determined to be immune to the poverty that surrounds them. 


Artist Jaime Ávila has participated in a great many contemporary art events, among them the 9th Havana Biennial (Cuba), the XXIX São Paulo Biennial (Brazil), and the 3rd Liverpool Biennial (the United Kingdom). He has also participated in art fairs like Arco (Madrid), Art Basel-Miami Beach (Miami), and ARTBO (Bogotá).

Adalberto Camperos
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
© Natalia Gutiérrez, Bogotá, Colombia