Artists Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene (Los Ferronautas) built their striking silver road-rail SEFT-1 vehicle to explore the abandoned passenger railways of Mexico and Ecuador, capturing their journeys in videos, photographs and collected objects.
In their first London exhibition, SEFT-1 Abandoned Railways Exploration Probe: Modern Ruins 1: 200, commissioned by Arts Catalyst and presented in partnership with Furtherfield Gallery, in the heart of Finsbury Park, the artists explore how the ideology of progress is imprinted onto historic landscapes and reflect on the two poles of the social experience of technology - use and obsolescence.
Between 2010 and 2011, the artists travelled across Mexico and Ecuador in the SEFT-1 (Sonda de Exploración Ferroviaria Tripulada or Manned Railway Exploration Probe). In a transdisciplinary art project, they set out to explore disused railways as a starting point for reflection and research, recording the landscapes and infrastructure around and between cities. Interviewing people they met, often from communities isolated by Mexico’s passenger railway closures, they shared their findings online, seft1.com, where audiences could track the probe’s trajectory, view maps and images and listen to interviews.
The artists’ journeys led them to the notion of modern ruins: places and systems left behind quite recently, not because they weren’t functional, but for a range of political and economical reasons. In the second half of the 19th century, the Mexican government partnered with British companies to built the railway line that would connect Mexico City with the Atlantic Ocean – and beyond to Europe. This iconic railway infrastructure now lies in ruins, much of it abandoned due to the privatisation of the railway system in 1995, when many passenger trains were withdrawn, lines cut off and communities isolated.
For this new exhibition, the artists are inviting British expert model railway constructors to collaborate by creating scale reproductions of specific Mexican railway ruins exactly as they are now. One gallery becomes a space for the process of model ruin construction. The room’s walls will show the pictures, documents, plans and other materials used as reference for the meticulously elaborated ruin construction. With this action a dystopian time tunnel is created.