Alejandro Valencia-Tobon works in the intersections of ethnographic research, public art and biological science drawing on a combination of participatory methods, sonic and visual modes of representation to translate questions about vector-borne diseases into forms of social action. He is based in Medellín in Colombia.
“In the project ‘Lurking Inside the City’ I interpreted the symbolic construction of mosquitoes through the sounds they make, while also exploring traditional medicine and natural healing practices linked to dengue fever.
I then invited Hernan Marin, a Medellín-based artist, to work with me to redesign posters against mosquito-borne diseases. We used a collage technique to visually represent how non-academic participants symbolically constructed their experience of mosquitoes.
The poster ‘Natural Healing’ highlights a variety of plants used to treat diseases like dengue or chikungunya, and to keep mosquitoes away: eucalyptus (Eucalyptus cinerea), matarraton (Gliricidia sepium), ruda (Ruta graveolens), and palosanto (Burseraceae family, possibly Bursera graveolens).
In the piece called ‘Fear’ we decided to work with the idea of buzzing sounds and blood- sucking processes. For one of the participants, mosquito buzzing is like having ‘a vacuum cleaner or a jukebox hovering over your head’.
The idea of ‘Anger’ was key for the third poster, because ‘an animal like a mosquito just infuriates you’.
The final design was completed based on the concept of ‘Death’. As another participant stated, ‘a mosquito is not as harmless as you can imagine, because it can bring death to some people’.”