Ser Ciudadano (Being Citizen)

The façade of the local National Civil Registry old building transforms into a territory inhabited by thousands of images of citizens that, for decades, have been attending the registry offices to obtain their identity document.

This visual piece was created after exploring some of the most traditional photo labs in downtown Bogota, and particularly ID photos found at Vilon Photo Lab taken between 1939 and 2013. It is meant to draw citizen’s attention to the old facility that had a very important role at hosting the local registry and now, disused, has gradually disappeared from the city’s collective imagination and faces a present wear as well as an uncertain future. To this end, the intervention, as a tactic, on one side confronts our physical image constant transformation throughout our lifetime and, on the other, the static image of ourselves that is kept in the public institution. The ID photo is with us since we become citizens and, in many cases, remains with us for the rest of our lives as an unchanged memory of what we once were.

Within the timeframe of the golden ratio (an image per second) thousands of faces take the building front (located on the Carrera Septima -the Seventh Avenue-, one of the most important streets in the city) to establish a meaningful boundary between the bystander’s world and the institutional one. It is about stacking material and immaterial elements that belong to the memory that we all share as inhabitants of Bogota. This experience creates a collective pulse/journey from the use of the image that identifies us as citizens, which lives and will live in the institution forever, considering that the people are the constituent and central element of every public entity. There are 22.249 images, the same number of days that the Registry issued ID’s since November 24, 1952 until the day this 48-hour event first took place.

Being Citizen is an action that encourages thinking and reflection about the origin and destination of the places and spaces belonging to the community and that are in danger of disappearing forever, due to collective apathy, among other reasons. That building is just another example, that which for many years was the place where numerous generations of Bogotanos had our first institutional experience as Colombian citizens.

Concept: La Máquina Somática
Original photography: Estudio Vilon - Germán Villamil, Patricia Villamil.
Photographic reproduction: Santiago Troppoli y Ariel Barco
Assistants of production: Lorena Aguirre y Jaime Valencia
AV post-production: Juan Orozco y Andrés Jurado
Executive production: Edwin Maya
Video recording of the event: Felipe Camacho
Design and production: Alexander Gümbel

Conceived and Directed by: Javier Gutiérrez R.

A commission of the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Bogotá.
Deputy Director: Alejandro Burgos.
Curator of the project: Eloísa Jaramillo.