A blog for the Second Language Literacies course from the MA in Learning and Teaching Processes in Second Languages (ML2) at UPB-Medellín
Eco (1983) wrote “My good Adso,” my master said, “during our whole journey I have been teaching you to recognize the evidence through which the world speaks to us like a great book. Alanus de Insulis said that
omnis mundi creatura
quasi liber et pictura
nobis est in speculum
Before starting this report, I want to say that during the observation, I felt like Adso de Melk, World “speaks to me” but I did not know how interpret its signals, I mean; I did not kwon what I was looking for. The class before the activity in Museo de Antioquia, I asked a lot which was the purpose of this, for that day, I was still lost but when we started to do the observation with a clear guidelines, finally, I understood the purpose of this activity and I really enjoyed it.
Plaza Botero and Museo de Antioquia are places that show a social transformation in a marginalized and depressing sector in Medellin. Since 1999, the square of the sculptures and the buildings around it, like Museo de Antioquia, the Palace of Culture and Nutibara Hotel, became the epicenter of art and culture for locals and foreigners. Visit this place show us the changes that the city has had over the past 40 years. However, we must not ignore that it is necessary to invest more money in these spaces, because day after day, it is invaded by hawkers, thieves, prostitutes, drug addicts, etc. Altering the dynamics of the city, or perhaps; they are who give a dynamic to those spaces.
First, I will make a brief description of the field notes taken at that time, and further on I will write the questions raised about the activity.
On Thursday June 19th, it was a hot day (28 °), midsummer; most of schools in Medellin are on vacation and we are celebrating World Cup Soccer in Brazil. That day, exactly, the Colombia´s team had a match with Ivory Coast; this situation greatly altered the social dynamics of downtown. The joy, euphoria, desires to celebrate, the festive atmosphere turned this Thursday different from another day. When I started the observation, the match was over (2-0) won Colombia, people went out to the streets to celebrate. People were excited, elated, and euphoric and noise of cars and motorcycles were louder.
I noticed that many elderly people frequent that place and they are dedicated to drink coffee, talk and sell things. I could also see that there are many people who is standing up or sitting watching passersby, I do not with what intention, I have an idea. I saw many young women selling ice cream, toys, minutes, etc, but I also saw many of them waiting for something or someone. I saw that, at this hour and this day, few people went into the Museo de Antioquia, one or another foreign visitor to the city.
I think that the foreigners are easy to recognize by their desire to take photos in all possible poses and places. That afternoon I could only identify two or three of them. I notice also, this place is frequented by Christians or evangelicals because the way they wear their clothes. Furthermore, it seems that at that time, people who got up early to buy personal or for business things in “El Hueco”, came back to their homes, because nearby, there are the routes to the northwest, communes 5, 6 and 7.
In a time of observation, I was behind a man, sitting on the stairs of the Museum and He seems that my presence there, made him feel a little uneasy, perhaps; I think, everybody in that place believe that when a stranger approaches, they were going to steal them. Almost all passersby, carried his or her bag in front of their bodies, perhaps the reputation of the area, it forced to maintain certain precautions to avoid problems.
Many people try to walk as fast as possible, perhaps, as a security measure or because of the rush of the routine. Young women tend to show their bodies, there are a large number of men, especially older with their desire skin-deep. People in those places, apparently looks pretty suspicious, especially if you are so close or you show much kindness. At the end of the observation, a man of mature age, started to shout Bible passages, perhaps looking for attention to be heard, and his message does not seem to be very convincing for passers-by.
These are the questions raised about my Plaza Botero observation:
Why are there some people spending their time watching the passers-by?
Why are there so many young women working as hawkers?
Why are there few people visiting the Museo de Antioquia at that time?
Why do people here look so suspicious?
Why do people use their bags forward of their bodies?
Why a young adult man have to shout Bible passages in the middle of the street?
What are so many young ladies waiting for?
Why and how soccer matches alter the dynamics of the city?
After 35 minutes of observation in Plaza Botero, We decided to come into the Museo de Antioquia.
The Museo de Antioquia is located in Medellin’s downtown. It is a beautiful and old building. When you come into the Museum, you can feel a different atmosphere, because it is really disconnected from the external noise. It is quiet; the air conditioning in some rooms is nice. The fountain in the middle of the building make feel the visitors a relaxed atmosphere. Besides, People who work there are very polite, kind and well-dressed.
The entire 3rd floor is dedicated to the artworks of Fernando Botero with many paintings, sculptures, and early works. The 1st and 2nd floor exhibits rotate every few months. There are audio tours in both Spanish and English available on the 1st floor just to the right of the main stairway. The museum also has 2 gift shops both located on the 1st floor. One is dedicated entirely to Botero and the other is authentic and original Colombian artisan crafts.
I started my visit on the 3rd floor observing Botero artwork; a guide told me the story about Pedrito Botero, the youngest child of Fernando Botero. I was moved because any painting has a beautiful or tragic story behind it. Who said that the tragedy is not beautiful, too. “…Oedipus then seized two pins from her dress and blinded himself with them…”
I just paid a lot attention to the “flies” in the Botero´s painting; I do not understand why that insect made me feel a disgusting atmosphere. Something went bad in the picture. I spent almost twenty minutes observing those pictures.
Another artwork which caught my attention was a painting located in the contemporary exhibition hall, it was the artwork of Enrique Grau called “The Big Wedding” was oil on canvas, 1963.
The picture showed a bride that did not look happy rather resigned. She had her white dress, her hands was fallen, like asking herself: What am doing? Or why am I doing this? She was next to a table, where there were trays of biscuits, but with fruits starting to discompose. The atmosphere is sad, as I said before, it seems an unhappy moment. There was no a groom in the painting.
It caught my attention, because I do not believe in marriage, ceremonies, and perfect men. I do not like to wear a white dress; I hate white color. I think that live with a person is very complicated; it is not an easy decision. At the end, I think my opinion like a spectator or observer is very subjective and tends to have a point of view more negative than positive. Also, I found interesting the traits of the bride, because if the artist wanted to express an unpleasant, boring, disappointing situation, he achieved it with me, I do not know if it was his intention.
My questions to the artist are:
Why did he paint the bride and not the groom?
What is happening with the fruits?
Why did he paint a sad bride in the “happiest” day of a woman?
Why is the bouquet in that position?
Why did he decide to exhibit this painting?
The artworks around this painting belong to abstract art, why did he or she place this painting there?
Why did you choose this painting?
What do you think about the painting?
What can bring this type of artwork to a common viewer?
Why is this painting in the contemporary exhibit hall?
Why would you observe this painting?
What do you think about this artwork?
Do you think, this painting deserve to be exhibit? Why?
Do you know the author of this painting?
What do you see behind this painting?
In conclusion, I am going to close the idea of this report explaining what is the connection between the quote, in the beginning of the paper, and the activity. This quote is from the book “The name of the rose” written by Umberto Eco an Italian semiotician, philosopher and novelist. The reason I start my report quoting this author it is because research is “an act of carrying out systematic strategies to discover something and increase our knowledge about a particular subject.” You do not have to be a scientific or a genius. You only need to observer what is happening around you, what the other people see and, finally; look for answers through the theory, without theorical basics research is just an anecdote in a teacher´s room or any other place.
Look out the world can give us many answers “man can know himself if just he looks around. He does not need to raise so much his eyes”
These activity make me think in a literary concept called “leakage” (Caicedo,2002) it is to escape from your reality, to come into another to understand both or have an idea. As an observer, I must leave my prejudices to take a different reality and to understand or at least, accept its difference. However, I cannot be a “female reader” (Cortazar, 1963), which is dedicated only to criticize, observe, look but do not assume an active, transformative or critical of that reality. Investigate makes me take part of that transformation, because it helps me understand the reason of things, and when I see a situation, I can master it. So I close with an excerpt from the same book with which I began: “If you want to dominate the nature first you must learn to obey it”
Umberto Eco. (1983). The Name of The Rose (First edition). New York, United States of America: Warner Books.
Julio Cortázar. (1963). Rayuela (First edition ed.). Madrid, España: Editorial Alfaguara Argentina.
Caicedo, A. (2002). Angelitos Empantanados. Bogotá, Colombia: Norma.