Friday, April 29, 2005 | To anyone who has ever wanted to tear down their cubicle walls and do something they love for a living, take inspiration from Bulbo.
Bulbo is an independent, public art/media project based in Tijuana, founded by a bunch of friends who were disgruntled with their myriad of jobs, ranging from a lawyer to a chef to an airplane mechanic. Rather than strictly work for the man, these 15 artistic, media-savvy individuals put the man to work for them by pursuing an alternative creative path together, doing the things that they truly enjoy on their own terms.
There was no clear vision. All they knew was that they just wanted to do something different. Now they’re doing all sorts of different things.
“We all started as a video production company called Galatea Audio/Visual, which is still what we are, shooting videos for weddings and corporations. We got to a point where we had enough equipment and abilities to take this to another level, so we came up with this pilot television program: Bulbo TV,” said Cristina Velasco, the group’s 24-year-old head of marketing.
Shooting videos for Galatea provides the bulk of the funding for Bulbo projects, but the group also receives money to help with production costs from sponsorships, one major sponsor being the brewery Corona, as well as grants from Conaculta – Mexico’s equivalent to PBS – and other government agencies.
They selected the name Bulbo (Spanish for “bulb”) for their desire to bring light to people and ideas that are often ignored by more mainstream media, particularly urban culture – independent artists, musicians and movements. However, the name is even more appropriate to characterize the abundant energy and relentless innovation of the group.
In the three years since Bulbo’s launch in March 2002, what first began as a local television pilot has gradually expanded into a full-blown media empire that quite possibly would make a soulful Rupert Murdoch smile. The project now encompasses a number of other forms of media – a magazine (Bulbo Press), FM/Internet radio show (Radio Bulbo), record label (Disco Bulbo) and Web site
Although each person has his or her own specific focus, everyone demonstrates multi-talents and is able to contribute to all areas of Bulbo, whether it’s writing, operating a video camera or editing footage.
Bulbo TV, a weekly 30-minute show featuring documentaries on everything from aggressive skateboarding to local urban artists, now broadcasts nationally throughout Mexico – something they never imagined would happen – on Conaculta Channel 22. The television show has received positive response from people looking for independent productions to fill “the emptiness in the media,” said Jose Luis Figueroa, Bulbo’s video director.
Bulbo Press, the bimonthly magazine with a circulation of about 2,500, first launched in mid-2003, as a loose newsprint publication before switching one year ago to a bound magazine format.
Each issue is filled with 27 pages of colorful photos and crisp graphics that accompany features (in Spanish) on various forms of urban culture, such as graffiti, tattoos and the Tijuana-San Diego indie music scene. One past issue ran stories on the Tijuana opera, traditional Latin dance classes and the local lucha libre (the popular Mexican wrestling sport) scene, in addition to local band and album reviews.
“We choose local themes, but always with a view of being of interest to people who are not necessarily local. We’re looking for something that is close to the heart, something that is a passion for someone. Finding people that are passionate about what they do, that will be an interest to everybody else,” said Juan Eduardo Navarrete, head of distribution for Bulbo Press, through a translator.
Editor Paola Rodríguez, added, “That’s what gives [the content] a commonality throughout the world, passion translates to any geographic space.”
And people are taking notice, not just in Tijuana and San Diego, but also beyond the border. Bulbo has been asked to collaborate with other art projects and international exhibitions, including inSite05, a contemporary public art event that will be held this August through November in the Tijuana-San Diego region. Most recently, Bulbo was invited to participate with 15 other Tijuana-based artists as part of the “Tijuana Sessions” show at ARCO ’05, an international contemporary art exhibition held last February in Madrid.
Bulbo Press is available in Tijuana, Tecate, Ensenada, Rosarito and a handful of independent bookstores in San Diego. However, distribution has been a challenge.
“There is no appreciation for independent creative efforts; it’s been a challenge to get people’s support. In Tijuana, most of the magazines sold in stores are from Mexico City … store owners want to promote something that’s safe and that they’ll know will sell. So even if we get our magazine in a store, there’ll be a sign in some hidden place,” said Navarrete, who literally goes door-to-door promoting and distributing the magazine to stores, cafes and schools in Baja.
“Originally, we just wanted to make movies. But with all the projects we’ve had, it’s opened a new vision and new possibilities. At this point, we’re not really sure where we’re going,” Rodríguez said through a translator.
Having tackled almost every form of media possible, Bulbo is set to unveil yet another new branch next week. Bulbo Broadcast will transmit TV and radio programs via the Internet, encouraging collaboration with other artists outside of Bulbo, as well as greater interactive audience participation.
Twenty artists from Tijuana have already been enlisted to provide content for Bulbo Broadcast, in addition to a live interactive event scheduled to take place simultaneously in both Tijuana and Zaragoza, Spain. Participants in each city will have the opportunity to interact with and direct the content as it is being broadcast over the Web.
“What’s important about the project isn’t so much the medium, but rather the information being distributed and generated not only by the artists involved, but by the people and places around them,” Figueroa said through a translator. “That’s the kind of engagement that we are most interested in – collaboration and how you can put together a heterogeneous group and communicate how they can relate and collaborate with excitement.”
He added, “People find a way to create and build from scratch. There are no limits to building art and culture.”
When asked about the future of Bulbo, the four answer with some uncertainty. “We’d like to have a restaurant or a taco shop,” Navarrete joked.
Taqueria Bulbo? Given the ingenuity and passion of the group, it may not be long before Bulbo serves its media with a side of guacamole.
For more information on Bulbo, visit http://www.bulbo.tv.
Patricia von Euw helped with translating for this story.
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