Margolles explores the sites and consequences of forced migration in the border region between San Antnio de Táchira, Venezuela, and San José de Cúcuta, Colombia. Violence, poverty and discrimination, are traced back to fundamental origins - using a local conflict that can stand representative of global tensions with migration and our current world events.
The titular installation Estorbo is part of a larger project for which the artist involved a total of over 180 young Venezuelan men who work on the Simón Bolívar Bridge as “carretilleros” (load carriers). The Spanish term estorbo stands for the idea of “obstacle” or “disturbance”. A randomly distributed area of 90 grey cement cubes stretches across the exhibition space, challenging the visitor's special attention as they enter. Each cube shows the imprint of different initials on its surface, while in various spots a piece of fabric is visible beneath the porous surface.
The objects are the result of a performative act that Margolles developed from a temporally displaced combination of dialogue and interaction. The participating Venezuelans told the artist their respective stories on site and then, as a symbol of their physical labour, gave her the t-shirt covered with the sweat from their activity. In a performance at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá in Colombia in 2019, the t-shirts were cast into concrete blocks, and the initials of the participants were engraved into each cube. The concept of the cubes is reminiscent of Gunter Demnig's Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) and in a similar way gives a face and identity to the many unknown souls.
More than 6 million people have left Venezuela since 2013 to date to find refuge in neighbouring countries and other regions of the world, according to a UN study. About a third of Venezuelan refugees settle in Colombia, while few cross the official Simón Bolívar border bridge on their journey. Those who cannot pay the fees and cannot present the appropriate permit choose the alternative route, along the illegal escape routes, the so-called “trochas”. These are considered a dangerous place, characterised by a cycle of illegal activities and increasing misery.