Travelling by train can potentially change lives, as popular culture and history has shown time and time again. Trains present an irresistable opportunity to see whole landscapes, and to meet interesting people while voyaging through different regions.
That's why SEFT-1 is one of the coolest projects we've seen in a while: this custom-built, metal vehicle was created by Mexican artist brothers Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene to travel an abandoned trans-continental railway that stretches 9,000 kilometres between Mexico and Ecuador, a geometric wonder on wheels which could also travel by road. The video says it all:
SEFT-1 is the acronym for the Spanish "Sonda de Exploración Ferroviaria Tripulada" (loosely translated to "manned railway exploration probe"). Created out of a truck that was cut down to size, and outfitted with custom-made interiors that merge the analog with the digital, SEFT-1 was designed to travel on both rail and road in order to collect stories, film footage and audio surrounding railways that had been abandoned since 1995, when Mexico privatized their rail system, and when whole communities then became isolated.
From Coahuila to San Lorenzo, the brothers take SEFT-1 to various corners of these countries, linked by history. On the SEFT-1 website -- fashioned endearingly like a futuristic explorer's dashboard that's equipped with Google Maps -- the brothers provide plenty of historical and cultural tidbits as they journey through time, attempting to see the big picture, the past, present and future of this disused line. Calling SEFT-1 an "investigational device" and "transdisciplinary art project [for] public interaction and diffusion," they say:
...[SEFT-1] addresses two poles of the social experience of technology: the use and disposal. The way in which the ideology of progress marks historic times.
It's a historical significance that is worth understanding: the introduction of the first railroad in Mexico during 1873 "had implications at the beginning of industrialization and the emergence of the working class, their lifestyles, their labor, their struggles, their triumphs and their defeats." The project explores how progress and modernization affected these two countries, yet how this vision of progress failed so many.
Running from 2010 to 2012, the project provides a remarkable insight into how this rail line changed Mexico and Ecuador, before itself became a broken promise. To see more images and share in the brothers' powerful pilgrimage, visit SEFT-1.