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The Bubble’s Insta-Picks: @TheWalkingConurban

Every week, we scour the web for the best Argentine Instagram accounts.

By | [email protected] | November 20, 2018 8:45am

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It was a stormy night in Berazategui, one of the many cities that comprise el Conurbano, that enormous area home to 13 million residents that surrounds Argentina’s capital. Guillermo and two of his closest friends were to play a gig in Quilmes, another one of those cities, this one about 6 or 7 km away. As the band trekked on, the rain only got worse, eventually turning into one of those full fledged end-of-days downpours that to which people from around here are all too accustomed.

They drove through several barrios on their way, all immersed in darkness, a collective power outage had engulfed the “conurba,” except for several street corners that were lit by protest fires, enormous towers of truck tires engulfed in flames. For many people, this would’ve been enough to turn back, one too many red flags. But not Guillermo and his pals. “We started to joke that it seemed like we were witnessing a post-apocalyptic Conurbano and then we just began to feed that idea with all sorts of things we had encountered in the past,” Guillermo recalls. “Until at some point somebody made a reference to The Walking Dead…”

And so, the idea for The Walking Conurban had, almost by way of chance, been conceived.

 

The Walking Conurban began as a platform for Guillermo and his bandmates (plus another childhood friend that also got involved) to upload their pictures of Gran Buenos Aires, those that portrayed it in all its postindustrial “splendor,” the remains of a world gone awry. The account was officially born in April 2018, but it’s safe to say it’s been circling in the guys’ heads for who knows how long. “The account is a way to show what happened to the Conurbano after the deindustrialization process of the 70s in Argentina. Several places that were the industrial centers of the country are now filled with buildings that are falling apart. We live in a country with a lot of unemployment and people living in the streets, yet this area is packed with abandoned houses and factories. That’s what the page tries to reflect.”

 

The rules of the account are quite simple, besides the obvious apocalyptic tone that must invariably be present:

  • Rule #1: Pictures cannot have people in them. As Guillermo puts it: “We believe it’s kind of derogatory and it stigmatizes people when we associate it to zombies or the apocalypse. Besides, we run the risk of insinuating that they are the ones that are guilty of these places being like this, and it’s actually the other way around.”
  • Rule #2: Places photographed are not to be identified. Try as you may, you will not find a picture inside of The Walking Conurban that mentions a specific barrio or location by name. “All of Gran Buenos Aires is affected by the same issues of inequality, contradictions and more, so singling some places out misses the point. Besides, there’s a lot of historic division among barrios because of football and hinchadas and we didn’t want to feed into that.”

This sort of social critique might lead you to believe that the account is a serious, uptight affair that just hammers home preachy messages. But, as any Walking Conurban follower will tell you, that could not be further from the truth. They tend to take it all with a healthy dose of humor and sarcasm. Take their bio, for example: “A post-apocalyptic paradise just minutes from the Obelisco.”

Or their “Ask Me a Question” sessions on Instagram Stories that have become a fan favorite thanks to the guys’ witty answers and penchant for mockery. Every post, on the other hand, is accompanied by a sarcastic caption. A recent one, for example, featured a bus stop with the words Pinta Saqueo?? (loosely translated as In the mood for looting?) and was captioned ironically with “December is coming… And el conurbano lo sabe.” That picture, by the way, was sent to them by one of their followers, a common occurrence that arose pretty much as soon as the account was born. “Nowadays we receive up to 20 pictures a week and we decided at some point to use Saturdays to showcase them all.”

 

Their fan contributions also allowed them to organize Pasacalle Week and save their impressive collection of walls with phrases written on them for Thursdays only. At some point they ventured way far out, by launching the Soviet Series, in which the guys drew parallels between Gran Buenos Aires and Post-Soviet architecture and monuments. “It all started when we went to photograph a monument for Rodrigo in Berazategui. When we arrived, we encountered a bunch of offerings that resembled what was done with Soviet monumentalism back in the day. This kind of syncretism blew our minds. So we started to focus on monoblocks, abandoned factories, and water tanks and the series just sort of made itself.”

 

Monument to Rodrigo in Berazategui

 

So what’s in store for The Walking Conurban in the future? Well, Guillermo and his crew are hoping to organize exhibitions and form alliances with other artists, illustrators, and musicians that have found their muse in this particular area of the country. But for those of you expecting the guys to get into the business of selling mugs and T-shirts with their iconic imagery, as many other Instagram accounts end up doing, then think again.

“We’re not into that. What interests us is the possibility of exposing these things that have been happening for a long time. This is a beautiful place to live and we’ve been fortunate to have great upbringings in this area. We are who we are because of these spaces and for us this concept of apocalypse cannot be understood separately from the concept of paradise.”

Follow The Walking Conurban on Instagram