Necesitando al Otro (Needing the Other) is a three-channel video installation exploring the health, nutrition, and spirit of the Mexican Migrant, as well as the effects of mass migration on los que se quedan (those who remain). This project premiered at the 2017 CUNY Film Festival at Macaulay Honor College, April 28-30.

Necesitando Al Otro pamphlet DRAFT01The installation employs components visible to the audience (three LCD screens or similar display devices), and components that are hidden or obscured from view: a computer terminal running the installation and a simple web camera to detect movement and presence.

The video content of this installation is part of a larger documentary film project entitled ¡Salud! Myths and Realities of Mexican Immigrant Health. This project is focused primarily on the healthcare and health disparities of Mexican immigrants in the United States, the ‘Latino health paradox’, and the social contexts of health, mental illness, and reproductive health.

In the Winter of 2015, Lehman College Profs. Alyshia Gálvez and David Schwittek sought to complement their research into social determinants of health and migrant communities in the New York area, with an investigation of the social contexts in migrant communities of origin in Mexico. Building on a proposed pilot collaboration with a university in Puebla, Mexico, they garnered enough support to run a Winter session study abroad course there. Fourteen students enrolled, from four different CUNY campuses, including 5 students of Mexican origin who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (an executive order that enables undocumented students to participate in study-related international travel upon successfully soliciting a State Department permission called Advanced Parole). Funding for the program was raised from Lehman College, Anahuac University of Puebla, the Migrant Affairs Office of the State of Puebla, Aeromexico, and private donors. During this ten-day research and production trip, Gálvez and Schwittek and their students traveled to rural migrant-sending villages like San Antonio Texcala, Tulcingo, and Chinantla, as well as highly developed, urban areas like Ciudad de Puebla and Cholula.

Installation Description

This installation – and its interactivity – can best be described in three states: inactive, partial, and active.

Inactive

proposal diagrams inactiveThe installation detects the relative presence of viewers and, when it detects an absence of any viewers in the vicinity, it enters the inactive state. In this state, as if to suggest the increasing denial of the migrant’s position and struggles in our society, the three channels enter a state of data corruption that escalates with the duration of inactivity.

Partial

proposal diagrams   partialWhen the installation detects a partial presence (e.g. one or two people relatively nearby, though not front and center), it enters the partial state. In this state, the corruption of the three video channels becomes increasingly more subtle, and the viewing therefore less challenging.

Active

proposal diagrams active copy

As the audience increases in number and enters the front and center area of the in- stallation space, the installation enters the active state, wherein data corruption of the three channels is nearly unnoticeable. This interplay of obscurity  and visibility is designed to interrogate the Western Hemisphere’s relative indifference to the struggles of the Mexican migrant, and that an active interest in – and attention to – the struggles can lead to a clearer understanding of our shared humanity.

Objectives

  • Present at interactive film festivals such as Tribeca Interactive and the CUNY Film Festival.
  • Mimic my own process of coming to understand the Mexicans, Mexican migrants, and Mexican-Americans: from ignorance, to increasing interest, and finally to respect, empathy, and a persistent desire to incorporate aspects of their culture into my own.
  • Obscure glimpses into the life of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans until full attention is given.
  • Present sequences from the ¡Salud! Myths and Realities of Mexican Immigrant Health documentary in a non-traditional way.
  • Give students the oppurtunity to understand central components of User Interface and User Experience design, as well as installation art.