MATZA Edgelands is a MATZA initiative conceived in close collaboration with the EDGELANDS Institute. Working side by side, MATZA and the Edgelands Institute seek to develop a common working methodology fuelled by both scientific rigor and creativity. Particularly targeting the margins of cities and informal spaces, MATZA Edgelands’ methodology considers large urban centers as sites of power. Immersing in these contexts, security and community building issues are at the core of the program’s collective reflection and experimentation.
Planned as a 4-year program, MATZA Edgelands takes place successively in the cities of Medellin and Cúcuta (Colombia), Nairobi (Kenya), Geneva (Switzerland), Chicago (USA), Singapore and Beirut (Lebanon) between 2021 and 2025. By building bridges and dialogues between these seven cities, MATZA Edgelands aims to explore the emerging forms of social contract through art. MATZA Edgelands believes that art, combined with other disciplines, holds the power to engage new ways of doing and envisioning the future in a spirit of emancipation and citizen affirmation. In this sense, the projects developed by MATZAand Edgelands Institute are art residencies and exhibitions carried out with the participation of international artists and specialist researchers.
In a globalized world undergoing radical change, security has become a central issue. States andcities respond with increasingly omnipresent digital surveillance. Simultaneously, massiveurbanization puts large urban centers under pressure and reveals growing social and spatialinequalities. These two elements deeply affect society’s social contract: the way we live together,the public and the private space as well as our individual rights.In a context of democratic crisis and insecurity, many people believe that a choice must be made between security and freedom, considering that an increase in one necessarily means a decreasein the other. These antagonisms intensify tensions and crystallize opposing sides, furtherreinforcing the social and spatial divisions of cities. In urban centers, this results in the generalization of digital surveillance devices which collect data that often remains out of thehands of local residents. The dynamics of power and influence are thus changed, affectingthe trust and transparency that are essential to democracy.
In this context, we are convinced that both security and freedom are necessary. Thesolution is to be found in what we call COMMON GROUNDS, those physical or symbolic spaces where trust and a sense of belonging are built, which are essential tocommunities in order to flourish. The social contract is not built through the State’s regal constraint, nor through themistrust and restraint of a population. It requires a common will to unite and the takinginto account of everyone’s interests. Rules are accepted if they are recognized and shared,integrity and freedom are guaranteed as long as they apply to a population as a whole,without discrimination. These common grounds imply rules and rights, but also spaces thatare necessary for the expression and development of the social contract.
MATZA EDGELANDS MEDELLÍN is therefore a moment of convergence and an opportunity to bring together the complementary contributions of artists, scientists and representatives of civil society around a common reflection on the future of living together.
Workshop: January 31st to February 18th 2022
Exhibition: February 19th to March 20th (opening February 18th)
Location: Medellin, Colombia
With Medellin as its first stop, MATZA EDGELANDS has invited eleven artists to explore the local social contract and imagine new formats in the dynamic yet deeply divided context of Colombian society. Drawing on the country’s recent history and the creativity and innovations that have transformed the city’s territory in recent years, COMMON GROUNDS seeks to explore the spaces of change in the urban tensions of Medellin today.
COMMON GROUNDS, a MATZA Edgelands public art intervention, was held in 2022 from January 31st to March 20th. Over 3 weeks, artists from 3 different countries (Colombia, Switzerland, and Kenya) embarked on an experiment of co-living, co-creation, and co-design on the theme of urban insecurity and the social contract. Following the social lab Te Estamos Grabando (”We are Recording You”), Edgelands’ research sprint on Medellín’s use of surveillance technologies, artists probed questions about how surveillance technologies shape the social contracts in Medellín. The artists used the research sprint’s outputs - a manifesto that outlines the students’ vision for an inclusive and transparent security policy - as the starting point in their art process, thus linking our prior research work to this mode of public art.
Over three weeks (January 31 - February 18), artists and researchers lived and worked together in Medellín. They spent the two first weeks exploring the neighborhood, dealing with its complexity and specificity and sharing conversations with the people in the city (inhabitants, city representatives, activists, and experts). The third week was then dedicated to producing an artwork and an exhibition setting. To host the project, the art center Bodega Comfama in the heart of Medellin was transformed into a living and working space for the participants during the residency,before becoming the exhibition space. At the end of the artistic process, the exhibit was open to the public for a month (February 18th to March 20th).
In a globalized world in full upheaval which faces massive demographic flows, security hasbecome a central issue. States and cities are responding to it, notably through the digitalsurveillance of their citizens. At the same time, a massive urbanization puts pressure onlarge urban centers and reveals growing social and spatial inequalities, accelerated by thedifficulties of cities to adapt and integrate their informal development. When digitalsurveillance is perceived as a tool of protection for some, it appears as a way of exclusionand repression for others.
In such a context, control and surveillance appear as solutions but also have perverseeffects. When cities or countries fix rules with massive restrictions at their borders, migrantsare put in an even more dangerous and precarious situation and are forced to turnto illegality. By seeking to bring more security, these measures often encourage traffickingand increase the precariousness of migrants.
Cúcuta is a middle size city in the north of Colombia where thousands of Venezuelan migrantsdaily cross the border. These people have permanently to face up the danger, adaptand seek a secure place and financial resources to get back to a liveable situation. Atthe same time, internal migrants also reach the city from other parts of Colombia to escapepolitical tensions that may occur in the rural areas.
These flows of newcomers are mostly relegated in informal settlements thatcontribute to precarious situations in peripheral urban areas. Political as well associal and spatial borders of the city then constantly change. This makes it a challenge forCucuta’s municipality to define the limit of its responsibility but also for the city and itsinhabitants to define their own identity as citizens and part of a common entity.
MATZA EDGELANDS CÚCUTA is an artistic initiative that invited artists to reflect upon new forms of the social contract in border contexts. What does “security” mean for the population living in those areas? Through a close look at these issues in Cúcuta, the Edgelands Institute and MATZA could have a better understanding of the effects of digitalization and technology on the social contract in contemporaneity.
Residency: July 22nd to 31st 2022
Exhibition: July 30th
Location: Cúcuta, Colombia
Following the MATZA EDGELANDS initiative, BLURRED LINES is the second project of the Edgelands Institute in collaboration with MATZA. Facing world wide reinforcement of fences, borders and surveillance, what can we learn from the fast moving city of Cúcuta? In between the need to guarantee the safety of its own citizens and the necessity to host newcomers, how new equilibriums for the social contratin Cúcuta can possibly emerge from the BLURRED LINES of its urban boundaries? These questions inspired the participants to engage in discussions on the topics of security, technology, digitalization and community building in a context of migrants and refugees.
BLURRED LINES was a 10-day exploration and experimentation process with six international artists. Curated by Séverin Guelpa and Anja Wyden Guelpa, the artists gathered in Fundación Centro Cultural El Pilar, where they lived, worked and shared together. Yann Gross (CH), Syowia Kyambi (KEN), Vanessa Lacaille (CH), Ronald Pizzoferrato (VEN), Adrian Preciado (VEN) and Santiago Vélez (CO) were invited to explore how trust emerges among the BLURRED LINES of cities and how does it affect its social contract. Not only focusing on the physical borders of Cúcuta, the group developed familiarity with the local people during the residency, which allowed them to deepen their reflections and extend their horizons to the symbolic and affective borders that also create and maintain the social contract.
MATZA is an initiative started in 2014 by Swiss artist Séverin Guelpa that relies on the ability of a community to federate and invent its own tools of emancipation. We are going through a period of upheaval due to a succession of political, social, economic and ecological crises. In the complexity of analysis and the absence of answers to these profound transformations, Séverin Guelpa stands for the position that art can play a determining role in anticipating and feeling fragilities that other disciplines struggle to do. In this sense, was conceived as a manifesto that focuses on the power of art in creating social change and philosophical innovation through art residencies, exhibitions and workshops. Based on a principle of collective dynamics and collaboration, MATZA immerses into emblematic territories to rethink our relationship with nature and question the future of these regions. MATZA makes the bet that an implied art, moved by collective dynamics and a close contact with the world which surrounds it, can contribute to change in our society.
Like a true ancestor of the popular petition, the matze is a tree trunk that was torn up and moved from village to village in the Upper Valais (Switzerland) at the end of the 15th century in order to mobilize the inhabitants around a common cause. Once convinced, the latter would then plant a nail in the trunk as a sign of rallying. Echoing this tradition and in view of current social issues, MATZA is part of the urgent need to change behavior and explore new ways of living together.
About the curators
Séverin Guelpa is an artist and curator who mainly works on site-specific projects, most of the time related to social, political or ecological issues. Anja Wyden Guelpa has more than 20 years of experience in key management positions both in the private and in the public sector. In 2018, she created civicLab, where she works with her team to advise organizations and managers on innovation and corporate culture, using art, nature and movement for meaningful change. Anja and Séverin started to work together a few years ago by founding and organizing the Uncover workshops in the Swiss Alps.
Over the course of almost 10 years, MATZA gathered communities of artists, scientists and experts to work together on issues related to specific context of each site they invested. To date, MATZA has worked in the Mojave Desert in the United States (MATZA Amboy), on the Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland (MATZA Aletsch), on the Kerkennah Islands in Tunisia (MATZA Kerkennah), in Meyrin (Switzerland) (MATZA Meyrin) and in Lausanne (Bivouac).
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