In Latin America, they call them “proyectorazos”: when anyone equipped with a projecting device shares a visual, text, or other media on a public space.
For World Health Day on April 7, Mercedes Invernizzi, Mariela Bond, and Jorge de las Morenas, three Buenos Aires-based artists who work to activate and facilitate proyectorazos, issued a call for projections that express the power of collective action in the midst of the pandemic. From Guadalajara to Portland, from Asunción to Brussels, facades lit up with graphics and messages ranging from expressions of support for health workers to demands for “Medicare for all” and the end of military spending.
Numerous collectives historically dedicated to the art of projection responded to the call, including The Illuminator in New York; PEST in Portland; Delight Lab in Chile; Projetemos in Brazil; and Articiclo in Mexico and Argentina. One popular rallying cry was “quédate en casa” (“stay home”), an urgent appeal anywhere but particularly pressing in countries such as Mexico and Brazil, whose governments have consistently downplayed the threat of coronavirus.
The term proyectorazo hearkens to historic uses of the augmentative prefix in the context of revolutionary social movements in Latin America, such as the “siluetazo” — the collective action of drawing silhouettes in public spaces to signal the disappeared victims of military dictatorships, in Argentina and across the continent.
Invernizzi, Bond, and de las Morenas emphasized that proyectorazo is a channel or medium, not a group or collective, and it does not belong to any single creator. Anyone with the right tools can disseminate a message; a public Google Drive contains pre-made visuals and texts ready for circulation, though participants are encouraged to create their own.
In Latin America, the projector phenomenon emerged at least in part from video jockey or VJ culture, says Invernizzi; the three actually met through Clandestina Weekend Nerd, a Facebook group where VJs often gather to exchange ideas. Before they began using the term proyectorazo, she says, the Mexico and Argentina-based collective Articiclo was mounting projectors on tricycles and riding them around the city, circulating images in real time.
“Proyectorazo has become a global network. When protests broke out in Chile last year, there were projections in New York, for example,” said Invernizzi. “If we can bring attention to an issue that’s happening elsewhere geographically, we do it.”
“We’re using the same tools that the establishment uses to introduce ideas. We’re taking a technology that’s elitist in a way, because not everyone has access to a computer or a projector, and we’re using it to transmit a different message,” said de las Morenas.
“Instead of filling streets with publicity, we’re projecting questions like, ‘Where is Santiago Maldonado?'” he added, citing the 2017 viral campaign to bring attention to the disappearance of activist Santiago Maldonado, thought by some to have been abducted by Argentinian state police. A series of projections about the case at the Espacio Memoria in Buenos Aires constituted one of their earliest projects.
The coronavirus-related lockdowns across the world have emphasized the need for a form of art and activism that people can participate in from home, without gathering en masse to protest. Proyectorazos have always filled that gap, notes the group, suggesting that people with disabilities that limit them from attending in-person demonstrations can also benefit.
“With the quarantine in place, this has become the medium by choice,” said de las Morenas. “In fact, on March 24, since we couldn’t have the annual march to commemorate the victims of the Dirty War in Argentina, we had proyectorazos at the national level instead.”
Bond noted that the medium also provides a certain anonymity and protection, allowing participants to take over public and even privately-owned buildings in a way that can be subversive without being invasive. In Brazil, proyectorazos amplified the political side of the pandemic on World Health Day: “Out with Bolsonaro,” read one projection.
At a time when technology dominates our day-to-day and we turn to the screen more than ever in order to stay connected, proyectorazo provides an alternative platform.
“Proyectorazo is also about our relationship to technology, to our consumption of images on a screen,” reflected Invernizzi. “Our response is to propose a screen that looks outward.”