Mexico: Creating Anti-Monuments and Crowdfunding Dissent

By Pedro Reyes. February 4, 2013


Pedro Reyes is a Mexican artist who crosses the boundaries of the worlds of design, film, architecture and pedagogy. His expanded notion of sculpture aims to create solutions to social problems by increasing an individual and collective degree of agency.

Photo: MaloMalverde. Mexico City, May 23, 2012

Although we live in an era of ubiquitous social media, we should not underestimate the brainwashing powers of television. The more traditional medium’s immense influence was seen leading up to July’s presidential elections in México. Unequal air times, rigged polls and scare campaigns were decisive factors that favored electoral candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, who won the election. Many Mexicans regarded the electoral process as an imposition rather than a popular decision. Among the numerous protests that followed, one that emerged with great force and clarity was the student-led #YoSoy132 movement.
The main reason for the outrage among studentsand the rest of Mexican societywas the media’s blatant preference for Nieto, the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which held power from 1929 to 2000.

It became clear that though social media has been crucial in recent elections, there is still a vast demographic whose media diet is supplied exclusively by TV and newspapers. While clever posts on Facebook may collect many likes, attention to these sentiments tends to stay within one’s network of friends; the greater part of the population is still susceptible to the lies told by more traditional media. And since no sign points to television becoming a more democratic medium, it is paramount to bridge the gap between the critiques issued online and the visual space available in cities across Mexico.

Let’s imagine, then, that posts sourced on websites like Facebook could be enhanced with additional elements, like options for crowd-sourcing and funding, to project the posts’ words onto billboards, which have a huge amount of visibility. If these billboards were positioned strategically within the capitalat over 19 million people, Mexico City is the most populous metropolitan area in the Western hemispherethey could draw the attention of thousands upon thousands of people daily. Devising a website where one could transform social media posts into billboards would allow critical messages absent from mainstream media to reach new audiences. Many websites allow subscribers to vote for their favorite products and media: apparel, designer objects, songs, movies and so forth. This website would be similar, but instead of selecting designs to be made into t-shirts, for example, visitors would choose a cause or message they believe should receive more exposure, such as the records of political figures.

These virtual posts could undergo a fact-checking phase before becoming actual billboards; that way, space for clarification and commentary would be built into the process. Perhaps the first strategy would be to design an interface allowing users to write and share messages simply, and prescribing a period of time for improvements to be made to the text based on the comments and likes it receives. In the second phase, a message would be voted for and funded. Even a single billboard would be enough to create a ripple of social change, as reaching the third phase of materialization would mean constructing an extraordinary monumentor anti-monument, as it were.

By bridging the gap between the Internet and physical space, this website would also have another advantage: supporters of the cause without the time or means to attend a demonstration would still be able to participate. This is extremely important, as all campaigns have a burnout phase. Movements such as #YoSoy132 or Occupy Wall Street gain or lose momentum in direct proportion to the time their supporters invest. This platform would allow social movements to increase their lifespans, while remaining democratic and independent.

Find this article at Creative Time Reports, a dynamic new website that features artists’ analysis and commentary on news from around the world. Founded on the belief that artists' voices are critical elements of public discourse, Creative Time Reports has assembled an international network of artists from all disciplines to address the most pressing issues of our times.

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