Private Project

Camino de las Monarcas

Hello! My name is Alex Wand // Alejandro Botijo. I am a musician who, in the fall of 2018, embarked on a bicycle trip through migratory paths of the monarch butterfly from Los Angeles down to Michoacan, Mexico. I have documented the journey by posting daily videos that are annotated with stories and ecological research along with original music and sound design.

The inspiration behind this trip comes from the book, Staying with the Trouble by Donna Haraway, which explores ways to reconfigure our relations to the earth and its inhabitants in the next geological epoch. In the final chapter, co-authored by Fabrizio Terranova and Vinciane Despret, a fictional community settles on lands that have been damaged by fossil fuel extraction, mining, mono-crop agriculture, and deforestation. A central task of this community is to repair this land and form alliances with threatened species. Each newborn is paired with a non-human species that they protect. The protagonist, Camille, is paired with the monarch butterfly and plants milkweed and works with people on the monarch’s migratory corridors to protect this threatened critter. Camino de las Monarcas is my own real-life version of this fictional story.

Due to a complex set of mostly human-caused factors, monarchs in North America have suffered population loss upward of 90% in recent decades. In an effort to counteract this, I sowed native milkweed and wildflower seeds on roadsides and other under-utilized land along the monarch’s path. This will give them a fighting chance to sip some much needed fuel for their fall migration. My landing point was the Guapamacátaro Art and Ecology Residency in Michoacan where I was artist-in-residence during the month of January. Here, I wrote about my experiences, made sound art, and worked on this film.

  • Alex Wand
  • Alex Wand
  • Alex Wand
  • Alex Wand
    Key Cast
    "Alejandro Botijo"
  • Alex Wand
    Lost LA, The Harvest Run, Porcupine
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental
  • Genres:
    adventure, nature, cycling
  • Runtime:
    48 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    December 18, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    4,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Mexico, United States
  • Language:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Alex Wand

Alex Wand is a Grammy Award-winning musician and composer who performs as a solo artist and in bands Desert Magic and the PARTCH Ensemble, performing at venues and festivals from California to Tibet such as REDCAT, the Bootleg Theater, and the Xinghai International Poetry Festival. His music has been described as having “melody lines that can circle through one’s head for days after listening, begging to be rewound and re-listened and timbres and layers that are supremely joyful and poignant and at times absolutely laid bare in their sincerity” (New Classic LA).

His compositions combine interests in alternate tunings, poetry, ecology, storytelling, folk, and world music. In 2017, MicroFest Records released his chamber music song cycle, The Great Hunt. Alex composed music for KCET’s Lost LA documentary television series and The Harvest Run, a full-length documentary about wheat and corn harvesters in the Midwest. He has worked extensively with choreographer Jay Carlon on ways of amplifying dance movement, most recently at REDCAT’s NOW Festival in 2018.

In the fall of 2018, Alex completed a 2,300 mile bicycle ride that followed migratory paths of the monarch butterfly from Los Angeles to Michoacan, Mexico. Throughout the trip, he posted annotated videos each day on his blog. The videos contain ecological discoveries, bike adventure tales, field recordings, and original music, and investigate non-anthropocentric outlooks on ecology. He studied composition at the University of Michigan and at CalArts with composers Bright Sheng, Michael Fink, Ulrich Krieger, and Wolfgang von Schweinitz and is currently pursuing doctoral studies in music composition at UC Santa Cruz.

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