Meet SEFT-1, Sonda de Exploración Ferroviaria Tripulada (or Manned Railway Exploration Probe)
In the latter part of the 19th Century, the Mexican government partnered with British companies to build a railway line connecting Mexico City with the Atlantic Ocean. Since that time the passenger railways have fallen out of use, leaving thousands of kilometers of disused track snaking across the country and cutting rural communities off from larger cities.
Enter artists, and brothers, Ivan Puig and Andres Padilla Domene, aka Los Ferronautas (Railway Astronauts), who decided, in sort of an ‘art meets research’ project, to build a vehicle capable of exploring the country’s abandoned railway lines. The vehicle had to not only be capable of traveling by rail as well as land, but also had to provide a living space and research lab along the way.
Following the completion of the probe, the brothers spent a year traveling across Mexico in the SEFT-1 to explore the disused railways as a starting point for reflection and research into the notion of Modern Ruins: places and systems recently left behind, not necessarily because they weren’t functional, but for a range of political and economical reasons.
Along the way the artists interviewed people they met, often from communities isolated by Mexico’s passenger railway closures, and shared their findings online at the project’s website – seft1.com, from which people could also live-monitor the probe’s status, location, and routes.
Last month the SEFT-1 probe vehicle was on display at a Modern Ruins Exhibition at the Furtherfield Gallery in London.
Along The Railway:
About SEFT-1: The DIY Probe Vehicle
All Images Credit: Ivan Puig and Andres Padilla Domene