El Matadero

Video Game December 2018

A case study for an interactive project tracing the stories and lives of Villa Epecuén back to the dawn of the 21st century.

  • Date - December 2018
  • Created by - Tim Bentley

Villa Epecuén

Image from El MAtadero

In late November 1985 a rare climatic event caused the breaching of a dam separating Villa Epecuén, a tourist resort some 250km from Buenos Aries, from the adjacent lakes. Over the following days and weeks the town was slowly submerged - not a single, spectacular torrent of water but a steady, creeping trickle which slowly choked the city of its inhabitants. Within a month the once-popular resort was all but deserted, and by spring 1986 the town sat under nearly a metre of water. By 1993 the water had reached 10 metres and the town was - with the exception of a single, heroically defiant resident2 - deserted. The waters eventually began receding in 2013, revealing a town devastated by the effects of over 25 years underwater.

El Matadero

The fundamental goal of the project is to digitally recreate the abattoir at Epecuén in a way which allows the spectator to engage with the history of the town and its future. It focusses on 3 key areas of interest through the creation of an animated work which I hope to extend as the project progresses, either through interactivity, random instancing or subverting methods of dissemination to the digital arena.

Image from Switch


Of humans arriving in the town, of animals lead to their deaths, of humans fleeing for their lives.


Where once the citizens preserved their slaughtered meat in salt, nature has covered their city in the same thick coating of salt. The barriers built to protect the city from the waters have been flung back across the roads, seemingly to protect the town from humanity. Nature, it seems, has an advanced sense of irony.


The story of Salamone, the brutalist art of the ‘Década Infame‘and the aesthetic of cruelty. Once again, anything we can do, nature can do better.

Image from Switch

In a sense the project’s arrow points towards the digital rather than away from it, taking something which exists entirely outside of the technological realm and looking to digital media as a means of developing and exploring it. There is no innovative method of using digital tools which precedes the idea, rather the hope that those tools can be adapted to serve creative goals in inno­vative ways. Given this significant dis­tinction between a project which is not lead by but leads to a digital framework, what are those goals, and how can they be formed in a digital landscape so far from the stagnant waters and deserted streets of Villa Epecuén?

It is hoped that by using a wide variety of tools (3D modeling, VFX, compositing, Python coding etc.) to navigate a story which sits resolutely outside the digital universe. Recreating the lost town of Epecuén and its wild, lonely slaughterhouse will offer not only an insight into its curious, tragic existence, but also an understanding of the relationship of a city to its inhabitants, of nature and humanity, of the endless march of life and death down the long road out of Epecuén.

Image from Switch