LAND MARK (FOOT PRINTS)
The photography project Land Mark (Foot Prints) is an extension of a series of actions that took place in Vieques, Puerto Rico in 2001-2002. We worked in collaboration with various activist groups involved with protest actions in the disputed U.S. Navy bomb testing range. Initially our project consisted of designing custom-made soles that were added onto the shoes of people involved with the land reclamation campaign. The shoes were used in civil disobedience actions in which various people seeking to reclaim the land entered the range and, as a result of walking in that landscape, marked their presence in the form of a stamp on the terrain. The images on the bottom of the shoes, chosen by each individual user, depicted territories (geographical, bodily, linguistic, etc) that functioned as counter-representations of the site’s function at that time as well as what it is still to become.
Depicted in the images are multiple footsteps, by one, two, or several bodies. In some photos you can trace the trajectory of a single person across the photographic frame. In others, there are hundreds of steps taken, to such an extent that teasing out any single path would be impossible. This we felt had a lot to do with the nature of the civil disobedience actions themselves. There were numerous people partaking in these actions, some as individuals, others as part of larger groups, but each with their own ideological perspective and reason for being there. There were evangelical groups, representative of various political parties, conservationists, students, people whose families once lived in this area, there were members of the Ricky Martin italian fan club who had learned about the struggle through their local fan club website, there were anti-military activists, environmentalists of all kind, and even some celebrities such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Jesse Jackson from North America, just to name a few.
We wanted to find a way to convey the diversity of this group in the photographs. And as we noticed from the actual marks being produced in the sand - going in so many different directions, canceling each other out as one footprint replaced the other, many paths and directions appeared, both physically as well as subjectively. Many of these people, while all were converging on the issue of stopping the bombing in Vieques, came to get very distant, and even antagonistic, perspectives. As a result, our framing of these marks made by the civil disobedients, through a photographic medium, creates a kind of blueprint of the re-territorialization of this contested spaces and bore witness to these multiplicities of perspectives. This particular framing of the marks generates new political understandings of the complexity of the militant actions.
Therefore, the diverse political perspectives, portrayed in the photographic images that we took, are the new crucible of the future development of these military lands. And many of the people who were once marching together in solidarity against the bombing, face now the difficult task of democratically debating the future development of this land, and are eventually finding themselves in opposition to each other over these new issues. Finally, we hoped that these photographs recover the traces of the colonial history of Vieques, of the free Caribbean islands, and the general imperial will to dominate the territory. The images made by the shoes remind us both of the arrogant marks left permanently on the Moon as a result of the Space race led during Cold War, and of the single footprint in the sand that captured the colonial gaze of Robinson Crusoe.
Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla
Exhibition organised in collaboration with the galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris.