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Art & Social Space
Paraná Ra'Anga: The River Under One's Feet
by Lia Colombino

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3. Identities

El Obrador is a cultural center on the outskirts of Rosario with a corollary that addresses the Toba neighborhood (the inhabitants of which migrated down to Rosario from the north). It forms part of a project that a cooperative budget made possible and acts as a space where this at-risk community can express themselves. The visit to El Obrador gave rise to many heated discussions on an indigenous people living in a hostile environment, but all in the knowledge that the project is a necessary one and plays a useful role in the community it seeks to serve.

These topics were later taken up again in on-board meetings and turned into fiery, never-ending arguments. Discussions ranged from policies aimed at “recovering” indigenous cultures to the impact of public policies on a community’s esthetic for the purpose of producing and marketing goods, and, in general, on the question of transitory identities on the move.

4. Time/ Experience/ Observations

Once the technical problems had been solved, the experience of being on board began shaping our days. There is no way of trying to represent what one experiences while navigating at an average of 5 km an hour, slowed down even more by winds, storms and minor accidents.

On moving from the maelstrom of their daily lives into a state of permanent delay, the expedition members experienced another sense of time in relation to space; a time imposed on them, which each took advantage of in a variety of ways. A different quality of time took over and as we immersed ourselves in it, the experience became different too: observing was not merely observing. In some way, almost like Benjamin’s experience of aura, the river returned our gaze, questioning our knowledge, our crafts and us, as if before a rip in the screen (which saves us from what Lacan views as “the real”), we had to avert our gaze or let ourselves be pierced (as Juan L. Ortí­z tells us in his beautiful poem). And we knew letting ourselves be pierced would not be without cost.

Experience - in this case - does not accumulate or add to us, it does not enrich us (in the sense of cumulative knowledge), but instead leaves us in a state of loss, that state that never lets something reconnect with itself. We will always have a register of what we have experienced, but we will also be left with the feeling that the register (of anything) is not consistent with reality. It is that difference that stays with us.

Returning to everyday life will bring a sense of loss. It will take an effort to get back into the swing of things and rebuild a sense of meaning. If this trip were a book, if that time out of joint - the dislocated time that Shakespeare refers to in Hamlet - could be read, if we could view the trip as writing in space, we might perhaps recall Barthes and his text:

“(…) whoever puts in a state of loss, shifts thing around (perhaps even a kind of boredom), makes the reader’s historical, cultural, psychological foundations or the consistency of the reader’s tastes, values and memories totter, places his relationship with language in a state of crisis”. (2)

5. Paybacks

Each expedition member and grant holder came on board with a project in mind. As the days passed the projects started changing course, following other currents; perhaps they became tainted by the crossroads fostered by the boat, by living together, by time. The plan is that on reaching Asunción we will have a meeting, where each member will outline their changes, and some will have something much more specific to show. A corridor has been formed, one of whose consequences will be activities that have yet to be fully defined, but that are taking shape as the trip continues.

In the meantime, a show covering some of the points that the boat touched upon is being planned and will attempt to translate that experience from the viewpoint of each of its agents. Will it manage to do so? We don’t know. It will attempt, perhaps in vain, to transmit something of the experience that escapes in order to provide a remnant. Attempting to do that will be like embarking on another boat to explore another river, albeit the same one.

* * *

Paraná Ra’Anga is a project of the Spanish International Cooperation for Development Agency’s (AECID) network of cultural centers, led by the Centro Cultural de España in Rosario with the participation of the Spanish Cultural Centers in Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Asunción del Paraguay. It has the support of Aula Rí­o (which has ties with the University of Barcelona and the La Plata National University), with the collaboration of municipal and provincial governments and civil society organizations.


1) Fuente: Graciela Silvestri, Documento “Expedición cientí­fico-cultural Paraná Ra’Anga (la figura del Paraná). Buenos Aires-Asunción, marzo 2010.

2) Translated from: Roland Barthes, El placer del texto (seguido de Lección Inaugural), Siglo XXI, Buenos Aires, 2004.

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