Mexico D.F, MEX by Jordi Bernadó
KidZania is a chain of children’s entertainment centres. Developed by Mexican businessman Xavier López Ancona, the first site was opened in the Santa Fe Shopping Mall in Mexico City in 1999. Since then, the cities of the peculiar State of KidZania have emerged on several continents (in Istanbul, Santiago de Chile, London, Tokyo). By July 2014 there were as many as 15 different sites. The day on which each new centre is opened is established as Foundation Day and becomes the anniversary of each KidZania site.
KidZania reproduces a real city, scaled down for children. Inside the grounds, the children have to act like adults, gaining access to different educational offers, all kinds of jobs and, of course, a succulent range of things to consume. In KidZania you can be a firefighter, a doctor, a journalist or a pizza delivery boy or girl; each job, accessible according to certain requirements, is rewarded monetarily in the form of kidZos, which can be deposited in the banks or spent in the city’s many colourful shops. The value of work and money are, in effect, the axes on which the KidZania edutainment project spins. It is estimated that a third of the earnings come from the many companies – Coca Cola, McDonalds, Dominos, DHL, Jumex, Comex – that fill the urban landscape and which guarantee that KidZania hums with working and social activity.
Jordi Bernadó’s photographs are of the original State of KidZania in Mexico City. The sequence of images reveals firstly, under the omnipresent artificial sky, the interior nature of the whole complex. This kind of enclosed atmosphere accentuates KidZania’s profile as an authentic laboratory where the bases of a certain model of social cohesion are put to the test. The range of teaching that KidZania offers makes it possible to assess the effectiveness and reliability of all the mechanisms that sustain it as a model. It is no longer a case of mere learning through play – which would heighten the development of creative thinking – but of turning the learning into a game that teaches an already established social model and which aspires to perpetuate itself. Like any laboratory, KidZania is, then, a place for simulacra. Jordi Bernadó’s photographs stress this obvious fact to such an extent that the reportage becomes quite sceptical.
The commercial establishments and production centres coexist in KidZania with the city’s theatre, the Flamingo Hotel or even the offices of the newspaper written by the kidzanos themselves. The whole thus configures a sort of total public space, in which any kind of situation or experience can take place: nevertheless, inside this system, which is hyper-organized around the brands, the resulting social space is completely imbued with a particular ideology. It is not an urban space arranged to be perceived and practised, unless it is on the basis of a previously coded representation.