Felipe Romero Beltrán (b. 1992) is a Columbian visual artist residing and studying in Madrid. Due to bureaucratic procedures, he had to await official documents that allowed him to continue his PhD. Experiencing the clear and present danger of a police arrest, he then decided to apply his knowledge about the routine checks to an art project: ‘Reducción’.
The title of Romero Beltrán’s project is of utmost importance. In Spanish, the word ‘reducción’ has several meanings. Besides reducing the amount, size, intensity or importance of a thing, it also could be understood as ‘to subdue or force to obey something or someone who offers resistance’. So, in this case, the latter definition of ‘reducción’ then would signify how the police puts its power into play by reducing the migrants to an anonymous entity that needs to be controlled.
In Madrid, the arrest of undocumented people is regulated by the Police Defence Manual. This manual, established by the National Police Force, explains in detail how to subdue an undocumented person with a range of specific combat techniques. Reducción, a work in progress, consists of staged interpretations of the various police actions – their ‘choreography’ for making arrests – as arriving from the training.
Situated in neutralised settings – white backgrounds – two black actors, bare-chested but further dressed as if in uniform, ‘combat’ each other in miniature ‘schemes’. In fact, these ‘actors’ are amateurs recruited through an advertisement placed by the artist, and the procedures were further instructed by a (befriended) national police officer. The black-and-white images that resulted from those sessions serve as an appropriation of actual arrests, thus correlating with seemingly mundane (and desolated) street scenes that Romero Beltrán also systematically documented with his camera; non-places that, once contextualised, vibrate an eerie sense of discomfort.
This is an excerpt. The full article has been published in GUP #63.