From bellow, from up top
artist: Promesas de tierra
I was looking at a photograph by Promesas de Tierra, which instantly transported me to a day when I was on a terrace in Guanajuato; which is visited regularly by posh and snobbish people to reaffirm amongst themselves the amount of money they have. I was there because it turns out, I have friends like that.
They invited me to spend a day in the capital, that afternoon ended up being foggy in my memory. I remember there were a lot of people, a small open space with little light and a lot of noise; I remember a bar with tables and small white armchairs.
I also remember many people talking over each other to make whatever they were saying be heard. I knew, perhaps, 4 or 5 people of the 13 who were in “our group”, so they had little interest in what I had to say, and I didn’t care for what they wanted to say either.
I preferred to lose myself in the terrace, looking at the city; a small part of the cathedral’s garden could be seen, as well as part of the cathedral, the University of Guanajuato, and other different buildings.
My mind focused on the cathedral, it made me think how ridiculous, yet intelligent, it had been to build churches in every corner of Mexico as part of the colonization and evangelization process.
But above all, I paid attention to the construction itself. Its pillars and its dome that stand out so much, and how each one has a little cross up at the top as if they wanted to get closer to Heaven, but that there was no other possibility other than to put up a piece of iron.
This made me think about the need for people to build higher and higher buildings, and how that is seen today as synonymous with development, wealth, and greatness. As if the taller the buildings in the city, the more important they are. I was already living in Mexico City at the time. I thought about the buildings there, how people see them from below and how, surely, the people above them saw them from up top as ants. I remembered a text by Jean-Paul Sartre that mentioned a character who liked to see people from above, from high places, because it made them look like small and defenseless ants that were easy to squash.
Is this the logic of building cities full of great buildings and skyscrapers in which people from above can see jaywalkers and think of them as thousands and millions of entities whose lives are irrelevant because they are not on the same level as them?
Could it be that making a difference is an objective of the entrepreneurs by carrying out such gigantic projects and architectural styles of which no one has a clue other than the people in the highest of stories?
I thought about Dubai. I thought about how I began to have a notion of that city when I was younger due to its great constructions of the largest and most elegant buildings and the symbolic relevance that this generated in my mind; power and wealth. I imagine that maybe they were doing that because they were trying to be as close to Heaven as possible, as close to God as possible.
Promesas de Tierra’s photograph, and its angle, made me think about how we see everything from below, longing for what is above us; but also how, perhaps, the people from up top see down on us. They seem full of contempt and with an air of greatness, but perhaps they also long for a life lived from our angle and not from the one they have. From their everyday life, full of spontaneity and not repetitiveness, from movement and not a sedentary lifestyle, from imperfect and catastrophic and not the planned and precise.