An Aquatic Sense of Place
Conservation Paradigm, Lines of Magdalena
Thesis Project. MDes Critical Conservation.
Advisor: Dilip da Cunha
Media: Video Installation + Collages
Location: Carpenter Center, Cambridge, MA/ Magdalena River, Colombia
Mompox, a UNESCO World Heritage site located by Magdalena River shows the problems of conservation practices in Colombia. It is a line paradigm that divides nature from culture, and the physical object of conservation from the cultural practices that surround it. This is seen with the local market in Mompox. In order to achieve the international standards of what constitutes a “historic center” the local people where displaced from the old building to a new market; a dark concrete building by the regional road. Yet to move the market away from the river is to misunderstand the nature of the people’s culture. That their identity and culture is symbolically and emotionally intertwined with the river. By removing people and their activity, it becomes an empty monument. It reinforces value, where value is within a static structure. The view is on the object and not the processes shared by material, the geography and the culture. Mompox allows us to question two paradigms. First, that the city and the objects can be Conserved on their own, without the context of the river and the cultural appropriation of he ecosystem. Second, that the spatial value boundaries can be drawn around a city and its build form which exclude the ecosystems that create them. Magdalena is not on Mompox but rather Mompox is in Magdalena. She is not a river on the edge of the city but Magdalena is a complex system that sustains the city. I explore the multiplicity of the system through three case studies: markets, boats and music. If Mompox as a historical center wants to be conserved, it is not by the static monuments, but by the active process across the natural, the material and the immaterial heritage.