Sarah Skinner / Sun Assistant News Editor

The box sat in the middle of Klarman Atrium for around 45 minutes.

April 27, 2018

Student Crafts Social Experiment to Raise Awareness About Colombian Presidential Elections

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At around noon on Friday, a small — and noisy — black box appeared in the center of Klarman Atrium.

The box was part of a social experiment regarding Colombia’s upcoming presidential election in May, Sergio Cote Barco grad, who designed it, told the Sun. The box sat on the floor in the middle of the atrium’s open space and speakers inside the box played sounds audible to those standing close by.

“[The audio] is from the presidential debate in Colombia,” Cote said. He sat on a nearby bench during the experiment, quietly observing and taking pictures of anyone who stopped to investigate.

Cote constructed the box in the style of a plane’s “black box” flight recorder, which records diagnostic and flight info and can be retrieved in the event of a crash. Printed on the box in small text was information about the Colombian election.

“You want [to] hear what happens before a plane crashes,” Cote said. “It’s this metaphorical reference of [how] everything is going not in a really good way.”

Colombia will hold elections in May, heavily influenced by a peace treaty signed last year between rebels and the government, Cote said.

The peace came about after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia handed over the vast majority of their weapons to the United Nations last November, ending over 50 years of armed conflict, according to reporting by The New York Times.

“This is the first presidential election after the peace treaty between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels that put to an end a 50 years (sic) war,” the information on the box read.

The box's information was printed in tiny text, making passerby have to closely examine it to understand.

Sarah Skinner / Sun Assistant News Editor

The box’s information was printed in tiny text, forcing passerby to closely examine it to understand.

The box’s sign claimed that the right wing movement in Colombia had spoken of the destruction of the treaty, while the left and center wings were “unable” to form an alliance.

The rebel group FARC rebranded into a political party for the presidential race, putting forth a candidate until he dropped out of running in March, further upsetting the balance, according to The New York Times.

Cote said that most people are ignoring the political turmoil in Colombia as it develops, in the same way that they ignore an uncommon object interjected into their space.

“It also is a reflection of how we don’t care about these kinds of problems,” Cote said. “Even if it is … this really small, disruptive object, people just walk by.”

A major part of the experiment was the election information, deliberately pasted on in tiny text that was only legible under close examination.

“Some people walk by but they don’t read,” Cote said. “Most of the time, it doesn’t matter in the end. They just pass by and they don’t do anything about it.”

The box was left in the Klarman atrium for approximately 45 minutes.

It was designed as a project for the class MUSIC 7411: Rethinking the Sound Sculpture, Cote said, and will be displayed in an international gallery in Milstein Hall later on Friday.