My personal background is a major influence on most of my work. Being raised in Colombia has driven me to look for ways through which design can contribute to the solution of social problems in my home country. This has allowed me to understand design’s importance as a cultural agent and designers’ role as social commentators. I strongly believe that design itself constitutes a vessel for self-reflection.
I consider moving to New York from Bogotá has had a significant impact on my interests as a designer. Living in the city has made me more conscious and proud about my roots. I do feel that being surrounded by such a diverse society has made me aware of my personal ties with Colombian culture, and language is a very important part of that. Over my practice I’ve come to realize that language is not only a representation of a society, but a mirror in which cultures can examine themselves.
"Es Mejor Ser Rich Que Poor" is an interactive poster aimed at igniting self-reflection within Colombian society by means of language. By recurring to a considerably famous expression ("Es mejor ser rico que pobre" / "It's better to be rich than poor") I intend to criticize the evergrowing "anything goes" culture. Commonly attributed to famous Colombian boxer Antonio Cervantes 'Kid Pambelé', this sentence is often ridiculed and overlooked for its apparent obviousness. However, it is my purpose to make evident how over time it has become an slogan for corruption, impacting Colombia's notions of national identity and society.
The first layer of the interactive poster is composed by an arrangement of postcards with the aforementioned sentence on top of a distorted image of the Colombian map. Each contains a popular expression or social label related to corruption. Spectators are encouraged to take and keep a postcard for themselves, revealing the poster's second layer.
This bottom layer depicts a pattern of world-known drug trafficker Pablo Escobar morphing into American magnate Donald Trump. This is a visual representation of how "It's better to be rich than poor" legitimizes the use of any necessary means for personal benefit, and how that has become a kind of behavioral pattern throughout the country. It also speaks to the prevailing notion of americanization as a way of social progress. The words "Plata Or Plomo" are printed on top of the pattern. This expression was made famous by Pablo Escobar during his war against Colombian State. Originally, it was used to bribe people in exchange of not getting murdered.
This is the winning project for the third Pratt Institute // Hennessy challenge, and was exhibited in Pratt's Manhattan Campus Gallery in New York City and Ralph Pucci in Los Angeles. Scroll down to watch a brief video profile on me and this project.
All pictures by Peter Tannenbaum.