> Walls of Progress, 2008 – 2012

Walls of Progress is a project that took place between 2008 and 2012, beginning as an investigation of visual imagery related to advertisements found painted on adobe brick walls in the highlands of Peru. Among the outcomes of this project is a series of sixteen maquettes based on existing walls documented during different travels to the region of Cuzco, specially the Sacred Valley.

Throughout Peru, adobe walls are frequently sites for murals used for propaganda and advertising alike. Some of them display political slogans and party logos, in which local and national parties promise progress and development of the region during election campaigns. Others promote and sell consumer products, using conspicuous fonts and colours. Unlike billboards and other forms of advertising, they are hand-painted, making each unique. These murals are renewed and updated every season depending on the changing political landscape of the country and the introduction of new products and services.

The process of making adobe bricks involves a huge amount of physical labour, mixing earth and straw with bare hands and feet, shaping them with wooden moulds and leaving them to dry in the sun for weeks. Using natural materials and processes ties in with indigenous ideologies, which assert the up-most respect and religious veneration for the earth as a life-giving force. The walls blend with the landscape while providing shelter against the forces of nature itself. Strategies of advertising, on the other hand, imply consumerists’ persuasion through the creation of images and symbols that link our desires and personal values to specific products and aligned political views. While seemingly oppositional in their approach they can be seen to play on the same desires for attaining security, comfort and shelter.

Drawing parallels between ancient methods of building and modern tactics of advertising act as a marker of how these rural areas are gradually becoming part of a globalised world. In reality, the walls portray a sterile promise of ‘development’ and a ‘better quality of living’ in a country that has suffered the detrimental consequences of colonialism and imperialism through corruption and exploitation of natural resources under the ever-present shadow of Westernisation. Through the transformation of these walls into architectural models, a suggestion exists that eventhough they are being captured in the process of becoming a ruin, they reflect a developing emergent order, uncertain because of the devastating reality, but with a strong potential of blossoming from the not yet extinct connection between the man and the land.