The Collective White House : Finished

The White House is complete after a week of construction involving over 50 people.

El Moro, the Mound of Moravia

The verdant El Moro
Nestled around a dormant mound of garbage, the people of Moravia descend from the internal migrant recyclers who settled the neighborhood to make a living from the trash

Rancho de los Recicladores
Shanty homes are still scattered atop the trash pile, el Moro, but many have been demolished by the government and local utility companies

Cemetery of Destroyed Dwellings
Bamboo marks the location of a removed home. The hill is dotted with such graves and is a powerful component of the comuna's collective memory.


On Tuesday, August 30th, Colombia's nationwide newspaper featured MDE11 on the front page.

Blow Rasta

An impromptu performance by artist Blow Rasta. Rasta is set to participate in the Mobil Studio.

Blow Rasta_Medellin - Colombia, 2011 from i3m on Vimeo.

Estudio Movil: Moravia

The Mobile Studio
Parked in a vacant lot next to the Moravia Cultural Center, a repurposed public bus is being used to record rappers who live in Moravia- a brick shack shantytown built on Medellin's old landfill.

La Mara
Crouched by a the speaker, La Mara listened to the recording of her song about a friend's recent murder in a feud over rhymes.

Barking "HARDCORE" over a homemade beat, Nacho and his counterpart rap a thrash style of hip-hop known locally as hardcore.

Memo MC's daughter
A few of the artists have young children, this one ate a popsicle and posed while waiting for her papa to record.

Treehorns under thunder storm
During the recording sessions, the bus weathered a heavy storm and had rocks thrown at its back window. Planes flew overhead and the muddy lot the bus was parked in became an impromptu moto-cross course.

The Collective White House : Under Construction

The initial construction of the Collective White House has begun. The WH front doors open to Botero Square. The WH structure responds the notions of institutional culture and the historical role of Botero's sculptures in Medellin.

Los Alabaos

We were scouting locations to produce a short music video about Los Alabaos, the Afro-Colombian funeral singers who lead the deceased into death. We were told about Monte Casino, the abandoned compound of Carlos Castaño Gil, progenitor of Colombia’s extreme right paramilitary movement. In its heyday Monte Casino was Gil’s opulent home and military command center. It also housed a cocaine processing lab and a dungeon where enemies were tortured and executed- and reputedly fed to a lion.

Stay tuned.

Embroidery at the Moravia Cultural Center

Twelve large scale embroidery works for La Casa Blanda are nearing completion. One now hangs in the Director's office at the El Museo de Antioquia.

Metal Shop

Here’s the yet to be assembled White House (Casa Blanda) in the metal shop located in Paris, a neighborhood high above the city. Yes, wheels.

Shopping Spree

We wandered through the police mini-mall and the military mini-mall looking for fifteen pairs of white ‘parade’ gloves, size large. We found them, but only after distractedly learning about batons, guns, protective footwear and how to join a mercenary organization. After that we found a source for large rubber stamps, embroidery thread, buttons and various colored pens.

The gloves are now being embroidered based on a selection of handmade maps drawn by citizens in neighborhoods adjoining the five major libraries built by the city to activate formerly marginalized communities. Roads are in black, zones of affection are green and zones of conflict are red.

Above are some of the glove drawings we collected.

Agencia de Lenguaje Urbano (Agency of Urban Language)

The Agency of Urban Language deals with the unspoken vocabulary that is exchanged during drug related activities around cemeteries in Medellin. The vocabulary is being re-contextualized into a context of peace, community, and progress-- in order to assist in generating a city of affection. For this part of the project, we are working closely with the students and faculty of the University of Antioquia. Today, the students transferred imagery of the re-contextualized vocabulary to silkscreens, which will then be printed on paper that will be wheatpasted in conflict areas of Medellin. The process of interacting with the students allowed for an exchange of ideas and dialogue, while simultaneously discussing the response the prints might generate. The students are currently on their summer break and are receiving course credit for their participation.
Recently, there have been protests throughout the university and the city because the government may be attempting to transform the state-subsidized university systems to for-profit organizations based on similar changes that have been implemented in other countries in South America. A faction of administrators believe that public universities are unnecessarily subsidizing the education of Colombian students because they have sufficient income. However, about 90 percent of Colombian students have a household income below the minimum Colombian salary. In actuality, the problem in the Colombian university system is not that there are some people who are not responsible for the costs of their own education, but that there are many young people who do not have the ability to pay for their education. The state, with its investment in public universities, makes an effort to alleviate--at least partially--these situations of inequality. By charging the students who's education is partially "subsidized", the profit-based system will damage mobility of potential students in the lower socioeconomic strata, decrease their chances of postgraduate training, and limit their options for the size of loan quality that they can acquire.

Cutting Wheatpaste Paper

Escritores (writers on the street)

The Office of Hopes, Dreams, and Fears will be housed in the White House beginning September 2. This project involves gathering hopes, dreams, and fears from people that we encounter on the street during our execution of the project. Beginning September 2 The CWHwill also host several Escritos, or Writers, outside the Collective White House. Escritos can be found on a side street of Plaza Botero (the plaza of the Museum of Antioquia) typing the letters for those who cannot. The purpose of these letters are broad but familiar: family members afar, legal and business transactions. The Escritos translate the thoughts of the ordinary Colombian, they are authors and poets for hire. They can put into words the intimate thoughts of a lover or the hardship of the displaced person. The Escritos will sit outside theCWH and type the hopes, dreams, and fears of the people in Plaza Botero. The finished letters will be stamped and submitted to the various libraries and institutions.

In The News

The word is out. We've conducted 2 television interviews and 1 radio in the past 2 days. We discussed the content, concept and how our project addresses the complex social issues facing the people of El Centro (the downtown district where the Museum of Antioqiua is located).

Meeting the Rappers and a Dog Takes Shape

We took part in a raucous and lively meeting at the Cultural Center of Moravia with a group of rappers from different parts of Medellin. Most of the young people had only heard of the project framework and their enthusiasm was immediately apparent.

The students at the University of Antioquia have been hard at work building the dogs that will act as mobile public sculptures.

Stories of the Minuteros

above :: Ovidio Ospina
"I am Urabá, I came to Medellín with my family displaced by violence. Working in the Park for two years Berrio. At my age and my disability gives me no work. Coming to the park told me that if someone wanted to sell minutes, and I accepted. I knew nothing about phones and stuff, but I got it. "
This is the classic story of a Minutero. Minuteros carry cell phones that are attached to vest, they sell the minutes for about $.08 USD. The minutero occupation provided steady work and a relatively smooth transition from a period of violent conflict. In the past few years the minuteros workforce has come to represent the unemployed, young children who cannot afford schooling (typically female), displaced peoples from the surrounding area.
The minutero is an archive of the social meme, a depository for the daily interactions of people in Medellin. The stories that they hear provide us with a context with which to view the city. We invited the minuteros to recount their stories and be projected on Collective White House. The stories they tell are personal, funny, and touch on the complex political situation in the area the museum.

The Mobile Studio : Bus 116

Our bus has arrived. Graciously donated by the Coostrana bus company and operated by Willian.

The bus will be used to travel to cultural centers throughout Medellin, and operate as a space used for recording music with local rappers. Currently, we are designing sculptural pieces to be placed outside of the bus upon arriving at a community center. The sculptures are dogs fabricated from fiberglass whose heads have been replaced with speakers. When deployed, the dogs will broadcast what is being recorded and previous recordings. Through a series of conversations with young people in Medellin, the context of the dog was eventually realized. These discussions revealed an understanding of the dog as resilient, and ubiquitous to the urban landscape. The dog is a complex metaphor for displacement, disregard and the invisible person while also drawing on human sensitivity and love.

Cultural Center of Moravia

Just recently we met with the a group of embroiders from the Cultural Center of Moravia (CCM). Director, Carlos Uribe succinctly explains the history of the neighborhood:

Moravia is a young neighborhood in Medellín that has been in existence for 42 years. It sprung up in 1968 as an unplanned development and is, let’s say, a unique phenomenon. Moravia grew around a rubble deposit that later became a garbage depository and subsequently the city’s official garbage dump, due to errors within the government administration during the seventies.

Between 1973 and 1983, the government authorized the dumping of any and all waste: residential, human, hospital and industrial. This created an infectious mish-mash, a mixture of different types of waste, including radioactive waste. Paradoxically, due to the social problems stemming from Colombia’s armed conflict, unplanned development processes led to Medellín becoming the focus of many displaced subsistence farmers, indigenous people, those of African descent and people from other parts of the country looking for a better life. They all concentrated around that garbage dump, living off recycled materials.

In that epicenter of death rose an epicenter of life. Moravia is a community of 48,000 inhabitants living in a very small area, a neighborhood that has the highest population density in Colombia: a unique phenomenon. Apart from overcrowding, public services used as contraband, lack of schooling and intra-family violence, Moravia also has positive features, such as being a melting pot of cultures. The people who come from the north and south of the country, the Pacific or the Llanos give it a very wide-ranging cultural richness. Part of our responsibility is to make those memories, that identity, that culture, come to light."

What Carlos Uribe describes is a social and economic context for which we base our project. Uribe's Cultural Center provides a structure for the artisans of Moravia that counter-balances their landscape poverty, drugs and exclusion from responsible social services. CCM marks a literal and symbolic space where people of the community can work as a collective to change the social issues that plaque their area. For those who come to the center there is more to find than lessons in cultural practices.CCM provides a foundation that creates a local economic structure, an education system, and an understanding of the collective process for social change.

We have initiated a project with a group of embroiders at the Cultural Center of Moravia. All total, thanks to a generous donation by Carlos Uribe, we have commissioned 12 members of the group to embroider 12 graphic images on bed sheets to be displayed within the Collective White House. Our interest in collaborating with the embroidery group comes from our interest in the process of embroidery as a contemporary art process, and a commitment to the local economic process as generated by CCM.