THE EXPEDITIONISTS: LA CIUDAD DORADA
16mm film transferred to digital video, 2007
RT: 14:40 min.
This 16 mm film transferred to video chronicles The Expeditionist’s live use of Advanced Recording Technology to create a sonic map of the Colombian heartland recorded en route to La Ciudad Dorada. This footage survives as the only document of their using this electronic device equipped with twelve light sensors that triggered ambient sound responses to the diverse topography they traveled through.
Though on the surface Advanced Recording Technology seems but an arbitrary means of “apprehending” their route, what they expected to experience along it, and where they imagined it would lead, The Expeditionists view it as no less arbitrary than other means to accumulate knowledge and acquire understandings used throughout history. In inventing the device, they sought to demonstrate that the “known” is principally manufactured by technologies that enable us to apprehend—each limited ways of measuring, recording and documenting—that themselves underscore how little of anything is known about everything. In this vein, the sonic map The Expeditionists recorded led solely to a place they came to know as La Ciudad Dorada, which is not really a golden city, but perhaps could likewise be for others depending on when and how they choose to apprehend it.
Note: After extracting the recordings captured en route to and on site in La Ciudad Dorada, The Expeditionists abandoned Advanced Recording Technology down a back alley in Santa Fe de Bogotá, believing it could lead to a new means of knowing the world for her or him who re-discovered the device and its potentials.
On the Eve of Christ's Mass, 2006, The Expeditionists embarked first to Colombia, South America, among what they hope will be many holidays disguised as adventures, rather their adventures clad (as they were) in holiday attire. The first among many forays to further science or record for posterity's sake, as but the less lofty of their ambitions should their sometimes schemes to surmount this mountain peak or bridge that cultural divide prove insurmountable, unbridgeable or otherwise absurd.
stills From the Rough cut
The Expeditionists, upon their return in mid-January, 2007, immediately set to Expeditioning in and about Detroit, Michigan, leaving few opportunities to elaborate on their doings and the goings-on in Colombia. However, they did release stills from a rough cut of a 16mm film documenting their adventures, seen here at left. No explanation beyond the location (still vague in that they only mentioned Colombia) was provided to contextualize these images, leaving friends and critics alike to speculate or otherwise draw hypotheses few believe will ultimately bear any resemblance of actuality.
Excerpt from a statement made prior to the colombian expedition
Because little has been heard from The Expeditionists since their return from Colombia, it remains necessary to continue publsihing views of theirs expressed through statements made prior to their embarkation upon this first adventure to South America. Further, because a document of these views remains scattered and certainly incomplete, and in some instances even un(or mis-)reflective of thier true intentions and beliefs (as the element of subterfuge always seemed afoot in all that they said), it is with
no small amount of disinclination that an excerpt from one of their statements is included henceforth:
"...But Why Not Simply Lead the Tourist's Life?... Meaning beyond connotations associating tourists with every negative "Ism" under the setting sun witnessed from a cruise ship lounge chair, piña colada in hand?
"While an out-and-out assault on the tourist, whether colonial reenactor or (sometimes literal) cultural grave robber, occasionally offers almost certain bull's eyes, it would nonetheless prove banal, reactionary, and worse, hypocritical to project scorn toward or cast blame upon them, while not upon ourselves. Of course, as Expeditionists our travels aren't undertaken merely to construct an album of photographs and a wealth of memories, as a tourist will, or to hob-knob and consume as the luxury resort-goer might; but try as we do, elements of each cannot assuredly be denied access to our expeditions. However, rather than simply accept (or, yikes!, embrace) that our treading on lands both of our origins and destinations inevitably leaves new footprints with varying levels of indelibility, we instead wish to make our touristing and travels something more than our current understandings of their amassed meanings.
"Our travels coincide more universally, for instance, to our every day: a life from which there is no respite from Expeditionism. Instead we welcome drawing each breath as Expeditionists, whether in our alleged "home", about a familiar city, or in a previously unvisited location abroad. More encompassing, also, for we view our brand of traveler less as an evolution from one type to the next, but of embodying the characteristics of travelers from all bygone eras through to the present. Characteristics to be lauded and others that we seek to shed: passed down from when the grand tour was the rage among aristocrats, for example; or when periods of convalescence occurred far from the bustle of one's own city; when the leisure traveler packed little for leisure upon filling his or her trunks with magnifying glass, butterfly net and big game rifle; or even when an explorer supplicated his queen to outfit his vision's of conquest with ships and men. And finally (for the moment), more actively, our expeditioning attempts to nudge tourism from its current state of passivity into an unknown body that is not just an amalgamation of the positive, non-destructive past (if such a concept could be more definitively deduced) but of some new, untried, and thus necessary form.
"To begin, then, as Expeditionists, we purposefully embody the idea of "stranger in a strange land" to the point of appropriating the cliché of the tourist--the traveler, the sightseer, the explorer, whatever you label him or her--over anything we might grab from the countries and cultures we alight upon. Assuming this role under the moniker of Expeditionist rings not just of intention or a sense of purpose but also of necessity when we find ourselves Expeditionists wherever we travel, whether it be forth upon airline or steam liner, or only more sedentarily behind a shopping cart at the supermarket or crammed for commuting's sake onto the cross-town bus. That is to say, the strange land extends to the cities in which we've blood relations, circles of friends or a windowsill garden to tend in an apartment we rent. This sense of otherness, however, limits itself not solely to what we are not in comparison to our surroundings at any give moment, but extends to what we are, and thus what we can offer to whomever we encounter both in the lands where our expeditions touch down and in the halls of learning, science and culture that thereafter might benefit from the journeys we embarked upon and thankfully rather than returned from, the journeys that redirected us anew..."
Just days prior to their embarkation in December, 2006, The Expeditionists released the following statement regarding why they chose Colombia as the destination for their first adventure:
"Colombia, from its pre-Spaniard era of tribes triumphant, ongoing alongside the old hemisphere's christening as "New World" and through the colonial days of New Granada, to the present Republic born to nationhood from revolution--now centuries embroiled in revolutions marching still!--has remained, for reasons explained plausibly by turmoil and tumult, mystery and possibility, but more soundly topography and climate, a land of eternal expeditions. Expeditions that--did and do--discover and explore, conquer and colonize, "civilize" and cast aside such backbreaking yokes; that from within industrialize and capitalize, educate and modernize, oppress and rebel; and that from without travel and tourist, research and dissect, appropriate and misunderstand; morphing into whatever expeditional fashion "justly" prospers, always for the now of Today's woman and man.
"Through this history being written still, and this topography and climate as ever resistant to everything mentioned and yet to come, does Colombia embody that which inspires expeditioning. For whatever discipline acts as the catalyst and intention for an expedition to and through Colombia--whether to further science, to remedy historical inaccuracies, to challenge the political supremacy of the state, to seek prosperity through business by the books, to imbibe the people's culture and infect their customs with something foreign, or to simply traverse from point A to B with recording devices snapping, whining, flashing and clicking--will the mountains loom and the jungles thicken, the rains feed floods and the mosquitoes feed off blood, and all the minglings of topography and climate confront travelers with both obstacles and curiosities kindled.
"The three cordilleras dividing the country, having once slowed the building of highways and railroads (still lagging), today continue to provide havens for competition without a sense of unity, nourishments that prolong attempts at conciliation, and literal shelters for revolution. It is into such resistant environs where settlements were thrust, often to be thrust back, equally to bulge to the present up and down mountain slopes, beneath jungle canopies, spilling into oceans numbered two, that conflict remains excited, that moreover epitomize the success and failures of expeditions past and the allure and reasoning for expeditions yet to come.
"In so setting forth upon this land, we, as Expeditionists, do so but lately, among the last (up to this moment, that is) of the countless columns to wash up on Colombia's shores, descend to its landing strips amongst clouds and mountaintops, cross its borders astride beasts of burden and surer foot, or simply emerge from its cities' alleys, it's sleepy villages' corner cafes, from anywhere with intentions of finding, marking and advancing, or otherwise regressing into, learning from and reveling within..."