Site specific installation
Inmigrant's historic street, Estudio Abierto Puerto, Buenos Aires, 2005

The inmigrant's historic street in Buenos Aires's port has a cement pedestal in one of its ends. Above it, a transparent moebius stripe rests inside a glass cube. This band has written in black letters the words IMMIGRANT and ARGENTINE, each one with an arrow in opposite directions. Like a sun dial, this object projects a shadow that changes all the time. In the morning the word Immigrant is projected in a way that can perfectly be read. The shade of the Argentine begins to appear flipped by mid-morning. At noon both words share the projection space and some hours later, the Argentine's shadow takes the scene. Little by little Immigrant's shade retires from the projection zone's center but it never leaves completely.

When do we become Argentines?

by Susanne Franz

There’s a small cobbled street between the Port of Buenos Aires, where ships loaded with immigrants arrived, and the Hotel de Inmigrantes (Immigrants’ Hotel), their first dwelling before they started a new life in a new country. Those that passed through there were still on the threshold, not having yet truly set foot on their new homeland. After crossing that threshold, nothing would remain the same. From that moment on, the slow and painful process of adaptation would begin, maybe even with a new name, given by the immigration officer to the newly arrived, because their own name was unpronounceable. A new name, a different language, a foreign culture. A new beginning, unwillingly in many cases. A new sun.

On the ends of the narrow street there is a small white pedestal. On the pedestal, Argentine artist Martín Bonadeo has mounted a glass cube exhibiting a transparent band, an endless Moebius strip, that turns on itself and after a seemingly impossible torsion returns to its starting point. On one side of the stripe is written the word “Argentine”, and on the other, the word “Immigrant”. This mysterious installation seems static at first. Though motionless, the work transforms itself during the course of the day. With the movements of the foreign sun. With the morning sun, the word “Immigrant” can be clearly read. But the shadow of the word “Argentine” is already forming, upside down. At noon, when the foreign sun is at its zenith, both words become equally important. In the afternoon, the shadow of the word “Argentine” flips to the other side and begins to occupy the center of the stripe. The shadow of the word “Immigrant” also flips over slowly and starts to fade. But it never disappears completely.

“Is it possible to forget one’s own identity to start a new one? How long does this individual conquest take?” These are some of the questions that Martín Bonadeo raises in his complex artistic work. All of them lead him to propose central issues of the search for an identity of his Argentine countrymen.

inmigrant in the morning, argentine in the afternoon

Wall text

For a newborn child everything is new, everything surprises him. One of the first predictable phenomena he will find are cycles: he knows that at night the sun sets, but it will rise again the next morning; we learn this and other very basic cycles in a very instinctive way. From that first moment, we acquire more and more knowledge, and we began to feel more comfortable with many things. There's a moment when we settle and feel that things belong to ourselves. After this moment we process changes in our environment in a similar way, and each time we need less time to adopt to new conditions. But what happens if we move from one continent to another? How much time does it take to include and understand space, social codes and idiosyncrasies from another culture? Is it possible to forget one’s own identity to start a new one? How long does this individual conquest take? A year, two years, a decade, a generation, two generations and I already consider myself a local.

The sun offers us a simple way to conceive time: once a year it is located exactly in the same place in the sky. And we usually remember that day as an anniversary, a date to remember. I was born thirty years ago, more than a hundred years ago some of my great-grand parents arrived from Italy, Spain, France or the Austro-Hungarian Empire and walked by this same street.

With many different suns, hundreds of people from foreign countries entered this country through this pavement full of hope, looking for a better living situation. They arrived with not much more than their shades to learn a language, a way of life and the customs of a new place. Not everything was completely new, they already knew that the sun was going to set at night and rise again the next morning.

But our shadow varies in different latitudes and our projection's shape in the ground will differ according to the light’s angle of incidence. Also, our being vibrates in a different way depending on the piece of earth we have under our feet. There are many new sensations, strange spaces, different colors, unknown textures, scents and flavors. Will we ever be the same again? We usually organize the life in pairs of opposites: yesterday and today; morning and afternoon; north and south, here and there; us and them. But what happens when we start being them, when the young become adults, when what is foreign becomes familiar? When do we become part of a culture that at first seemed alien to us? When do we become Argentines?

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