an exploration of urban identity in the middle of Texas
Costa Rica-born filmmaker Álvaro Torres and Guatemalan “researcher-militant” Daniel Perera are two Austin residents with a brilliant idea: “what would happen if we stood with our cameras on an ordinary stretch of sidewalk for a period of several months?” TEOA is pleased to share the result below.
…the ordinary becomes beautiful as a trace of the true. And the ordinary becomes a trace of
the true if it is torn from its obviousness in order to become a hieroglyph, a mythological or
phantasmagoric figure. […] The real must be fictionalized in order to be thought.
– Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics (2004, 34, 38)
The two of us came to Austin from Central America. Like many others of our generation and social position, we became nomadic in our young adulthood. We have passed through North Carolina, the Pacific Northwest, southern Mexico and Texas, often returning to Costa Rica and Guatemala, intermittently resettling and resuming our itinerancy over and over again. We met each other in Austin and embarked on a collaboration in which film, ethnography, critical theory and radical politics could intersect and possibly trigger productive effects. From the outset our initiative was based on hunches, intuitions, urges and a serious sort of playfulness.
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The places we notice in passing are sites where social hierarchies manifest and interact. In the realm of the visible, only some people are able to remain unseen, to choose whom to see and when. Such is the capacity of car drivers vis-à-vis pedestrians in a city designed for the automobile. Aesthetics is not so much about how the world is presented to us but rather how it is pre-established for us; what Jacques Rancière calls “the distribution of the sensible.” When we embarked on this collaborative experiment we asked each other: what would happen if we stood with our cameras on an ordinary stretch of sidewalk for a period of several months? What would emerge? How and by whom would we be challenged—aesthetically, politically? La Cuesta examines a place on the side of the road and the lives that sustain it. It is a confrontation as much as an evocation.
La Cuesta premiered at the 17th annual Cine Las Américas International Film Festival in April of 2014.
Álvaro Torres is Costa Rican, born of a Guatemalan father, a Costa Rican mother and Nicaraguan grandparents. He studied economics at the University of Costa Rica, followed by graduate studies in political ecology and development. After living in the Osa Peninsula, he decided to learn the craft of filmmaking. He studied at the Northwest Center in Portland-Oregon for two years, and is currently finishing the Master’s program in Filmmaking at the University of Texas at Austin (May 2014). His passions outside of film include poetry, beer, scripts, soccer, contradictions and the crust at the bottom of pans. Some of his work can be found here.
Daniel Perera is a researcher-militant from Guatemala City currently training in social/visual anthropology and experimental ethnography at The University of Texas at Austin. He pursues the intersection of theoretical-practical inquiry, collaborative audiovisual expression, creative nonfiction and situated struggles for alternative sociability. For over a decade in Oaxaca (Mexico) and Guatemala he has been an organizer and advocate for disestablished alternatives to development and education. His research interests include philanthrocapitalism and infrastructure; the semiotics of parasitism; elites, race and masculinity; whiteness and/as becoming; post-genocide, violence and securitization; politics and aesthetics; visuality and the sensorium; affect; technics and the body; media and mediation; Guatemala and the Americas. He eats abundant hot chilies, gets easily enthused and has an incurable wanderlust. Some of his work can be found here.