S6 E2: Borderlands

(Intro music playing.) (People chattering indistinctively.) In this episode, Mexicali Rose, an artist-run
organization at the border, providing arts and media education and programing to the
community of Mexicali. The sort of demographic that we always cared
about was the young generation of kids that didn’t have many artistic options. Drones as art, several artists on the border
are exploring the role of drones in contemporary culture. Our drone would be about erasing the border,
about crossing and about the borderlands as a place of exchange and contact. Paul Turounet’s photographs of undocumented
border crossers printed on galvanized metal. The border really serves as a metaphor for
transition, to go from one place to another quite literally physically and emotionally. Tijuana’s re-emergent art scene flourishing
in the passageways of the city’s historic core. Artists transforming an entire portion of
the city and really trying to repurpose what the space could be for the city itself. And border poet, Manuel Paul Lopez’s, animated
poem, “1984.” In 1984, I loved everything at the speed of
light. In 1984, I heard silence for the first time and kindly asked silence to quiet down. Next on Artbound. My name is Marco Vera and I’m the founder
and director of Mexicali Rose Media/Arts Center. Mexicali Rose is a grassroots community organization
dedicated to providing free media access to the youth of Mexicali. We basically cover
five functions, which is free workshops for kids, arts workshops. We also have a community
gallery. It’s also a micro cinema where we try to screen, uh, works from local filmmakers,
and it’s also an internet radio station called radiopajarohombre.com, and we also have a
community library, which features the work of local publishers. The idea for the space
was, uh, based out of LA. I was living here and I saw different community organizations
here, such as killradio.org or Echo Park Film Center where I saw people working with communities,
and every time I would go back home, I just felt like the time was right to do something
in Mexicali because that was the place where I saw a lot of talent and a lot of, sort of,
missed opportunities in culture and arts, something grassroots was, you know, in order
and it was time to get that setup and going. So, that’s what inspired me to move back to
Mexicali and start this community space, which the idea originally was just to do workshops
and it just started evolving into a gallery, into all these different other functions that
we cover now. (Music is playing in the background.) So the neighborhood’s always been diverse
to me. Since I was a kid, this was where all the las cantinas used to be. A lot of live
musicians would play there, trio music, Mariachis. But a lot of people just always associate
it that it’s so close to the border that it’s like a, more like tough neighborhood or like
cholo neighborhood. And those things do exist, but, you know, you try–have to try to find
positive aspects of any community, especially if that’s the one you’re living in, that’s
sort of like one of the main reasons behind Mexicali Rose, a lot of–in this city in particular,
other cultural options, I feel, are sort of reserved for people with money or, you know,
very elitist. And we always wanted to have a space where we could not only show art,
but also teach kids from around the area or kids from different parts of the city sort
of what we’re into, you know, whether it be muralism or a video, you know, try to teach
some of that to them. I think it’s–those are the generations that are gonna stay in
this neighborhood and try to keep it or try to make it a positive place instead of the
way it seems to be headed, which is due to the proximity in the border, um, there’s a
lot of, uh, people are moving in here and using spaces like this for drug trafficking
or people smuggling, which is what used to happen in this space before. (Man going out of the house.) (Speaking in Spanish W/ English Subtitles)
FIrst of all, this is the oldest neighborhood in Mexicali. It’s a very dangerous neighborhood,
filled with legends, myths, all kinds of stuff. You get used to living in this neighborhood.
People who aren’t from here are afraid of this place. Previously, there was no spaces
like this, there was nothing… except perhaps some soccer fields that were tagged up by
the cholos. Truth is, there was no place offering workshops for young adults. A place where
their minds and free time were dedicated to something productive. (Children playing arcade games.) (Car horn honking.) My name is Alicia Carrillo and I was raised
here in Mexicali, but after Mexicali, we moved to El Centro and we’ve been there for over
20 years. El Centro is a interesting city. There’s a lot around. There’s a lot to do,
but there’s not a lot to do. There’s like if you like to be on your own, wanna scout
around, wanna kind of live the lonely life, it’s a good place to be. But as far as, like,
entertainment and opportunities go, it’s not a good place to grow up definitely. Not being
able to get involved in art was very hard mainly because I didn’t really know what I
was–what my spot was in art. I got an AA in art, but I can’t draw a straight line,
jokes. I tried, I tried different things, I tried painting, I tried drawing, and different–or
whatever I saw they were offering, I would kind of come in. But nobody ever did video,
so I didn’t know I could use a camera and, you know, say what I wanted to say with a
camera until it came to Mexicali Rose. (Speaking in Spanish W/ English Subtitles)
Look, respect is learned at home, it starts at home. People who really don’t respect
themselves, and are looking to lash out due to their frustrations… they have suck an
inferiority complex and need so much attention that they end up sticking their noses in other
people’s lives. And in their own homes they’re probably worse off than any of us. I don’t
see being homosexual as a problem or a sin. People are really… but what can I say, we’re
in Mexico, we’re always going to be worth crap. Society is a… The sort of demographic that we always cared
about was the young generation of kids that didn’t have many artistic options. Uh, here,
we felt like that was gonna be very positive for them and indeed, we found out very quickly.
And so the need just grew and grew and we started doing more workshops and more workshops.
And based off those workshops, a lot of artists started flocking to the space. The space is
relatively big so they started asking if they could have an art show because the galleries
in town were never gonna give them a show. I remember when I was growing up it was hard
for me in that time in the ’80s to think that I could make a living doing comics or doing
my art because it, the, uh, the culture didn’t exist. It was either you would graduate–you
would go to school, you become a dentist, uh, engineer, uh, a lawyer, or whatever, and
anything that had to do with art base was kind of like, you don’t do that. So I think
now there’s a, the, the, the culture in, in art is, uh, has grown in a way that there
is possibilities of people, uh, making a living off art, and generally in that kind of idea
of culture and, and opening the widow for people to see something they, they haven’t
seen or don’t have the access to, to say, you know, uh, “I’m here, I exist.” I don’t feel, like, border artists at the
time were trying to find an identity. I think that the identity and the, sort of, mash up
of different influences and cultures and subcultures was already there. They just, sort of, needed
a place to show it because it wasn’t gonna get shown at the institutional galleries.
So, that’s when we were really excited about, is to be able to show what was already there. (Man sitting at the bleachers wears a mask.) (Speaking in Spanish W/ English subtitles)
The documentary I made at Mexicali Rose was about a wrestler. He was my trainer, Iron
Boy. I dreamed of being a professional wrestler. I would watch them on TV. I would say to myself,
“One day I have to be there.” Never in my life had I edited a video. At that time
I wasn’t a wrestler. I admired him. I said to myself, “One day I want to be like him.
I want to be in photos, I want the press to interview me, I want to use a mask… ” It
was a great experience for me because thanks to this project, I learned to express myself,
to express things through video. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Speaking in Spanish W/ English Subtitles)
What are the greatest achievements throughout your career? (Speaking in Spanish W/ English Subtitles)
The greatest achievement in my career I think has been facing off against some great wrestlers,
if not the world’s greatest, Pirata Morgan. I had a great run where I travelled each month
to Hermosillo to Guadalajara, to Nogales. I travelled throughout the Pacific. Living on the American side of the border
is definitely different. You know that big saying, “The land of the free?” I feel that
as soon as I cross the border into the Mexican side, and I know it may sound a little weird,
but there’s a lot more liberty do–to do things around here, just with the art–just in the
art scene, like, carrying a camera around, not a lot of people are gonna question that
or stop you or whatever. In the American side, it’s, like, it’s all protocol. Like, you have
to sign up somewhere and say that you’re gonna have a camera and you’re gonna be doing this
and all that stuff. So, it’s just maybe little things like that that do make a big difference.
When you come crossing, you have to walk to the turnstiles, and as I’m walking through,
I was just, like, “Yay, I’m free, I’m in Mexico.” And it’s not–it’s also not, like, most Americans
that come in to this side and it’s just, like, “We’re gonna go drink.” You know, it has nothing
to do with being free or anything out here in this part of the border. It’s more of–it’s
a personal thing, it’s, it’s, uh, I can go into a place and it’s going to be okay. Nothing
really is going to happen to me rather than over there, even when I–even in my hometown,
in El Centro, I don’t feel like that. I always feel like a stranger, or, like, I don’t belong.
I’m just there because that’s where I live at the moment. Currently, with the workshops that we’re doing,
we’re trying to expand and take them elsewhere. So, we started a workshop recently in a community
of Santorales, which is Valle De Misiones and that’s where–they have a high school
there. We took some documentary films there last year and we saw a pretty good response,
so I definitely wanted to work with the kids there. (Engines revving.) Santorales is an area of the city, uh, community
that I associate a lot with Pueblo Nuevo. It’s basically we’re all so close to the border,
a lot of different people from different parts of the country, um, mislabeled, uh, neighborhood,
crime-ridden, uh, abandoned by the government, um, and those are qualities where you can
find that the youth there have a lot of things to say. And they’re gonna have a lot more
critical thinking than somebody that’s got plenty of toys to play with, you know. So,
that’s definitely a community that we wanted to reach out to because there’s so many similarities
and I relate to it a lot. (Children playing volleyball.) (Band playing.) One of our, uh, constant collaborators is
Fernando Corona who’s an amazing muralist. And he’s done workshops with kids with murals
here and done some murals that reflect sort of the insanity of the city. So, we’re gonna
be working with, uh, a group of people that are also community organizers that are rehabilitating
people. It’s basically rehab spaces for people that are strung-out on drugs. And they asked
us to do a mural. They’re involved with the Plaza del Mariachi, uh, which is a very traditional
part of town where if you wanna hire a Norteno band, or a Mariachi, that’s where you go and
you hire the musicians there. (Camera pans over a line of spray paints.) (People chattering.) It’s also been very troubled, you know. There’s
a lot of people there that get deported and that’s the place to hang out and sleep for
a while or find shelter. But the cops really are just, uh, very hostile towards them. So,
we’re gonna try to do something that reflects that part of town, the Mariachi area, and,
sort of, make the space a little more beautiful for these people that are there. Whether they’d
be people or deported people that go visit the park, um, just trying to make public space
a little more beautiful in our, in our city. (Speaking in Spanish W/ English Subtitles
over Speakers) One more time, the show is called “Singularity
in Time: Space of Complexity” by Charles Glaubitz here at Mexicali Rose at 8pm. Admissing
is completely free, you know how we do. Colima Ave, between 6th and 7th in Pueblo Nuevo. (Speaking in Spanish W/ English Subtitles)
It’s very important to have a community center like Mexicali Rose.
More than anything for the younger members of Mexicali society. And we have the opportunity
to have Mexicali Rose completely free and it will stay that way. (Music is playing in the background.) (A shot of the Mexican flag.) (People walk up and down the stairs.) Many people have to cross over to the US to
find opportunities. Whether it’s, um, school, and art, work, whatever it is. For me, my
opportunities, I found them here. They’ve come out, out of this place. What I really love the most about Mexicali
Rose is it’s not somebody’s space. It’s not my space, it’s not Paulo’s space, it’s not
Alicia’s space. Everybody that comes here feels a connection with the house, with the
space, with the art being shown. And they have no clue who’s running things because
it’s a community organization. So, anybody that walks in the door can get as involved
as they wanna be. So, you can’t help but feel that when you come into the space, even as
an outsider, I think that no matter what, you’re gonna feel a pride in this neighborhood.
I have a love-hate relationship with this neighborhood, really. I mean, I’m, I’m–I
get sick of all the times that they’ve tried to break in or they’ve stolen stuff from us,
or, you know, like all the meth heads and junkies that are lying around, but you got
to find the positive aspects of it. And you can’t just, like, you know, jump ship. You
have to try to build something positive. And I think that art is a perfect vehicle for
that. My name is Ruben Ortiz-Torres, uh, I am a
visual artist. Uh, I am also a professor of the University of California in San Diego,
and I am here, uh, collaborating with Artbound. I wrote the drone article, uh, because it
seems the timing was right. Uh, this is an important subject in, in Southern California,
particularly in San Diego where I teach. Uh, these machines are very cutting edge, and,
uh, they involve these, uh, you know, new robotics technology, and these new materials.
And some other colleagues and professors have been doing research and put together an exhibition
about artist and drones. Uh, I was pleased with a, with a, with a video, because I, I
thought visually was, was compelling, you know. I was expecting more, um, perhaps more,
like, a journalistic clip or something. (Music is playing in the background.) The drone is becoming a symbolic object of
the times that we’re living because it is this new technology, and this new way to create
war. (Music is playing in the background.) The new wars are not being fought by individuals
against individuals, but now we have technology that does the dirty work for us without the
psychological implications of having to kill a person. These three art pieces are making
us aware not just of the use of these devices and how they, they exist, but also of the
possibilities of how we could recontextualize them, or recycle them. (Music playing.) The Drone Box Project or Drone-Ready Made,
as it’s known, is essentially our first collaborative project. James likes to surf Craigslist for odd materials,
and we were sitting at home one night and he’s like, “I need $300. I found this drone
box. I’ve got to have it.” This very complicated and complex shell or
encasement system was just showing up as a piece of junk. I think, for me, it wasn’t
so much the question of what it would become, just that it would be reused. Once we got it up on the casters, we started
to realize it is a two-person camper shell. And so we stripped it down, outfitted the
inside with two simple subfloors, carpeted, built interior seating, a little electrical
two fans to make it breathable, and simple lighting that could run on a generator. You can start to see how it’s been outfitted
as a sort of functional or livable space. And it’s actually a pretty ergonomic space.
It’s actually really cozy. (Music is playing in the background.) The second we pulled this thing out of our
space and we start pushing it down the street, it enters this realm of performance where
conversations are coming up. That thing is weird. It’s a predator drone case. I know. We’re trying to convert it into an apartment.
When people find out what the drone box is, they’re terrified of it, and they think of
this massive 27-foot long killing machine. They wonder immediately why it was discarded
or why you have it. It seems like too much to just be trash. It’s too significant of
a manufactured object to just be left alone. We’ve used it as a teaching tool to engage
in conversations, and to try to include people in the project, and the greater aspirations
that we have for educational programming. (Music is playing in the background.) They were playing (UI) that almost seems like
that character from the X-Files. He, with a group of other people, hacks or uses different
technology to do surveillance on the activities of the government, the military. He was able
to access some footage that was taken from a drone coming from what we think is probably
Afghanistan. And the footage is actually black and white, and it’s very abstract, and it’s
very similar to the kind of footage that we see on news, or on TV. Uh, that represents
the war in this very abstract way. Almost like this kind of technological spectacle
where it almost looks like a videogame, uh, but we don’t actually see the tragedy of death,
or all this. (Music is playing in the background.) Alex Rivera is a filmmaker who has done science
fiction movies that deal with the border, with migration, with new technology. Here in the US, the first conversations about
using drones here at home were held by anti-immigrant vigilantes. These border vigilantes said if
the government doesn’t put drones on the border, we will. And so they filmed the borderlands
from this remote control airplane, and the vigilantes were able to say to the press,
“We have more technology on the border than the government does.” These vigilantes were
able to do almost an active performance art, and shame the government into putting these
15 million dollar flying robots into the skies over the border. So, in 2005, my collaborator,
Angel Nevarez and I, were thinking about how to make a drone that would be the opposite
of that vigilante drone. And we came up with this concept that we called the Low Drone.
Their drone is about surveillance, paranoia, nationalism. Our drone would be about erasing
the border, about crossing, and about the borderlands as a place of exchange and contact.
Instead of it being invisible, let’s make it very visible. And then we started to think
about Latino aesthetics, and we’re attracted to the look of low riders, because low riders
hop, and our drone is essentially hopping over the border. (Music is playing in the background.) Drones are fascinating because they are used
to hunt people. They’re used to kill people. They’re this very powerful icon, but they
also represent a shift that’s happening across all of our lives in many ways. I think it’s not necessarily that these art
pieces are revealing, or showing us, how these machines work, or are used, because they are
certainly not the big narrative pieces that are explaining us the drama of war. But I
think these pieces are hinting at the possibility of using all this support, all this technology,
all this intelligence that has been used to create these things in, in a different direction,
trying to find out better use for these things, and to change the purpose of these devices. (Music is playing in the background.) My name is Kim Stringfellow. I’m a interdisciplinary
artist. Uh, I work, um, out of Joshua Tree, but I teach down in San Diego, at SDSU. I’m
also working on a side project called ARID, which is a, uh, desert journal of art design,
and ecology. The first project that we’re featuring is, uh, a photographer, uh, Paul
Turounet. Paul is, is following the role of the social documentarian photographer, and
he’s been doing extensive work on the border, um, dealing with undocumented men and women
that are traveling across for work, or life, you know, here in the states. I would say
with, uh, Paul’s work, there’s two exhibition spaces. There is the space of the gallery,
the museum, that traditional white cube. But then there’s also the space, the site-specific
space of the border, the border fence. And that’s, uh, a, a completely different audience.
That is the audience of the people that he is actually documenting and photographing.
And, and that’s something that I think is hard with that type of work. It’s difficult,
it’s problematic, and are you taking advantage of people through this work? Well, I think
he’s been careful, and, and thought about this, and it’s maybe what can I do to bring
this back, and do this for the people that I’m actually, um, photographing. That’s, for
me, what is important with Paul’s project. (Sound of footsteps walking to the desert.) You’re always, in some ways, in a state of
uncertainty of being grounded. It’s a challenging place for people, the nature of the environment
is tough, it’s hot, it’s dry. For a lot of people, it’s a life of struggle, of trying
to get to that other place. (Sound of footsteps walking to the desert.) I wanted to reflect the sense of, uh, first-person
journey through the landscaping. What you might notice as you’re walking around in this
place, and some of the little details you would notice, little comic books, toothbrushes,
shoes, remnants of somebody’s existence being kind of left behind to give a sense of that,
that experience. And as an artist, as a photographer, my work’s grounded in the idea of experiencing
in a particular psychological space, and a particular physical place. And the border
really serves as a metaphor for transition to go from one place to another quite literally
physical and emotionally. For those that are coming from the interior of Mexico, in Central
America, to make for a new life here in the United States, it’s a key transitional moment.
They’re leaving something behind for something completely unknown. (Man heavily breathing.) (Framed pictures on the wall are being shown.) (Music playing.) I did a project, uh, a site-specific installation
work along the border wall, photographing migrants that were camping out here during
the day in the attempts to cross at night. It was a collaborative project, and I would
photograph the person with a large format film called polaroid positive-negative film
and I would give the photographic print to the person I was photographing. The printing
process entailed printing the images on pieces of steel that were roughly 16×20 inches, and
each one would weigh approximately 30 pounds. After a couple of weeks, I would drive back
down to the location where I made the photograph, and I would rivet the images onto the steel
wall, predominantly here in Smuggler Gulch, which is known for human and drug smuggling
dating back to the early 20th century. The image would stay intact for a good year, and
then somewhat deteriorate after a few weeks’ time, and the nature of how they deteriorated
was predominantly because of the elements. And then the Mexican government came along
and put up their own placards warning migrants of the dangers of crossing the borders. I
started photographing along the border in 1997. And at the time, I was going through
my own personal transition of my own sense of identity. I actually felt lost. I wasn’t
sure where I was going when I thought I needed to go to a space and a place that represented
a sense of discovery for myself. All the work I did, in terms of photographing, was during
the day. They’re, kind of, stuck. There’s no real place to go, they’re at the border,
they’re waiting to cross, and that pause, that waiting comes with a heavy weight associated
with it with different ideas that race through your head while you’re here. For the people
I would photograph, that would become the most profound thing. I would photograph men
who would leave their wives, their children, you know, their entire family existence behind
to cross. Every now and then, you would come across an entire family crossing, and they
were coming with not much of anything except for, uh, backpack full of clothes and some
water. Sitting out in the desert in the hot causes your mind to think about different
things and think about what your life has been like and what it might be in–particularly
for myself, you know, photographing out here. I’ve gone through that similar experience.
Each time I come down to the border to do work, it causes me to reflect and think about
where I’ve been and where I might be going, not only as a person but as an artist as well. My name is Misael Diaz. I am a writer for
Artbound and I am also an artist working, uh, at the border between Tijuana and San
Diego, and also between Calexico and Mexicali, uh, and I’m also an educator. I grew up in
Tijuana, uh, crossing the border into San Diego. So, my experience is also one of the
border that is very fluid, and very permeable. Um, that all began to change in 1994 with
the passage of NAFTA because you started having a lot more industry in the city then people
started staying there, and kids started growing up in Tijuana and being from Tijuana, uh,
so it started to also to get, um, an identity. Around that same time, there was also the
speculation that it could be, uh, this laboratory for postmodernism, so thinking not just about
globalization and the economics and the industry of it, but also the cultural side of it. The
association with Tijuana and drugs, and drug violence, I think, began in the ’90s as well.
It has this interesting inception around the same time as the arts do, which is this interesting
parallel story. This all came to a head really around 2007, 2008. Part of what started happening
is that, um, Tijuana became synonymous with violence. A lot of the businesses that were
catering to tourists or that were dependent tourists, uh, completely failed or completely
imploded. This was especially noticeable along Avenida Revolucion, which historically was
the main street for tourism. That entire tourist district and that entire streets, in the sense,
started to, started to die, but it also started to create the possibility for a new possibility,
so the possibility for new things to emerge. You had, uh, new group of artists, uh, wanting
to engage the city and engage the citizens of Tijuana through the arts as a way of responding
to the violence or as a way of asserting the city against the violence. (Misael and Amy are crossing the street together
to a store.) Right now, we’re a few yards down south of,
uh, Avenida Revolucion, which used to be the main tourist, uh, destination in Tijuana.
They used to sell products that appeal to tourists, uh, so old curios, souvenirs and,
and then in 2007, 2008, with the rise in violence, uh, tourism completely stopped. (Music playing in the background.) (Speaking in Spanish/English Subtittle) You
felt insecurity… daily shootings here, 30 dead there…Kidnappings, It felt like you
could not go out. After the street had formerly been… invaded by so many tourists, it was
suddenly empty. A central artery of the city collapsed. It was the opportunity to come
and negotiate with the businessmen. I asked the owners, “what seems best, empty or full?”
If it’s full of artists you will not win much. but it will have life. The past does
not come back. (Speaking in Spanish/English Subtittle)
One thing they agreed was to have more artists. First there were three. If you gather twenty
artists you keep that rent. And about thirty arrived. (Michael is locking an establishment door.) The experience of a city is a lot like the experience
of a labyrinth, and I think that’s just amplified in a place like Tijuana where a lot of the
architecture does have these interior/exterior spaces, which is how I would term it, I guess.
Um, so you’ll come into a vasallaje like, uh–or, or you can pass by the vasallaje a
thousand times before recognizing that there is this, like, interior street. Um, and then
within this interior street, there’s even additional interior streets and they’ve, kind
of, nested in that way, and I think that as I explore the labyrinth of the idea that is
Tijuana, I’ve also realized that it’s reflected in, like, the physical architecture of the
city, and that’s true especially in–oh, I mean, most clearly in the cases of vasallajes,
which, uh, which, which–well, unexpectedly from major avenues and then become their own
major avenues, which yield further interiorities between buildings. Um, and I, I think that’s
really interesting because it, it, uh–yeah, it takes advantage of all these, all these
unexpected territories. And, I mean, and that’s very much Tijuana
as well, you know. Yeah. Like, you see the architecture and you see
the use, you see the use of space. And, and Tijuana is very much… Uh-hmm. It’s very resourceful. It’s very, um, you
know, multipurpose. It’s, it’s very flexible. Yeah. Uh, and I think that that artists have aesthetically
responded to that in the past, but it’s not just, kind of, taking on that informality
aesthetically, but really, uh, activating with that informality… Uh-hmm. …could be in terms of trans, transforming
space, and again transforming an entire portion of the city and really trying to repurpose
what, what the space could be for the city itself. (Music is playing in the background.) (Scene is continuously changing.) Well, this is what you got. Uh-hmm. You got it’s not just a transformation aesthetically
of a space, but it’s a transformation in terms of the, I don’t know, like, the ethics of
a space. Uh-hmm. And the ethos of a space and that space becomes
open to communities, it becomes open to a possibility. (Speaking in Spanish.)
Lima y lemon. The terminus of this, this walk for me is,
um, Parque Guerrero, which is where, uh, this musician called El Muerto performs every day
at noon and, uh, I gotten the habit of walking down here just because I was trying to book
El Muerto for, uh, for an event at the space. I think, like, when I think of an artist renting
space, I think of something that’s, kind of, really neither here nor there, uh, difficult
to term and so you leave it unterm, uh, untermed, I guess. If you can form a pocket of liminality, a
pocket of, of autonomy from, from signifiers, then you can start to open up new possibilities
of things that can, can take place. I don’t speak English, no. I don’t speaking
English. (Speaking in Spanish.)
Let him say it in Spanish first, though. Let him say it in Spanish. Yeah.
(El Muerto sings “Satanica”) Satanica! Satanica! …. (Speaking in Spanish.) (Alternative rock music is playing.) (Band playing alternative rock music.) (Crowd cheering and clapping.) (Speaking in Spanish/With English Subtittles) Artists have this quality of taking risks,
of innovating and suggesting. So I think it was a good move to propose the passageway
as an independent cultural center to an institution. (Music is playing in the background.) (Speaking in Spanish) (Scene is continuously changing.) (Lo Que Nunca Fue is playing musical instruments.) (Crowd cheering.) (Julian, Cesar & Friends is playing musical
instruments.) I, I’m a restaurateur, but I’m also a musician
and I’m also a promoter but, uh, everything is, is connected to this, uh, this love I
feel for my city. And over here we have, uh, the entrance to Pasaje Gomez, which, uh, was
one of these many alleys that, um, are part of Avenida Revolucion in which these do have
a lot of activities, especially in the stores of arts and crafts, and also restaurants and
cafes, and they were abandoned, uh, some years ago, and they were all, all closed down, so
this is where, uh, the famous Cafe La Especial used to be and this is the place that we’re
gonna reopen. And this place was packed. There was, uh, people waiting in line. Uh, a lot
of tourists that came, and sometimes still wander and, and look inside the windows, you
see that the place is still here. Uh, aside from, from the galleries, I think it’s also
important to have, like, a commercial site so that the whole Pasaje or the whole zone
has, has something attractive to it if people can come and have a drink and eat something
good and then visit the gallery. We often will have artists coming in and/or
visitors who are coming and they’ll say, like, “Can you pick me up from the border,” and
the answer is, kind of–unless it’s totally necessary, it’s, like, no, like, we’re not
gonna pick you up from the border, one because it’s right down the street and you can get
here on your own, but also because for us, uh (UI) has something to do with, I mean,
moving through the city and, like, and, like, familiarizing yourself with what happens here. (Sewn Leather band is playing electronic-rock
music.) Is that there is a distinction to be made
between people who are crossing the border to come to Tijuana out of a sense of tourism,
and the people who are crossing the border to come to Tijuana for a–for an engagement,
for a critical engagement. (Music is playing in the background.) (Man getting a tattoo on his forearm.) At the beginning, it costs nothing to, to
pay the rent because they were abandoned. So, you put the money, you develop it, you
know, and suddenly the owner of the building or the owner of the Pasaje started to see,
again, the potential of the tourist potential about the Pasaje, and suddenly they decided,
you know, that the rent is, is too low, uh, we wanna raise it, or we want the space back.
It has been happening all around the globe. Anytime that something like this happen, you
know, uh, big business start looking at your space. As more and more people come to locations
like this, it will become more desirable, and the businesses will get better, you know,
will be more successful, and eventually they’ll have to find another location as artists to
create spaces, but that’s part of a lifecycle, I think. Uh, um, that’s pretty natural with
cities that I’ve seen anyway. (Music is playing in the background.) (Man and woman are walking down the hallway.) And, uh, I think after, after such an intense
period of violence and, um, such, um, a shut down into a, a community or such a breakdown
in, in community, I think, I think these spaces really speak to a potential of reconstructing
that community or, uh, constructing… Yeah. …a sense of what it means to be a citizen. (Music is playing.) (Paintings on the wall are being shown.) (Man with a bag opening up a roll up door.) (Nortec Collective band is playing musical
instruments.) (Speaking in Spanish)
(Speaking in Spanish W/ English Subtitles) What happens when you no longer have this
approach with an institution? How to keep working and also how to provide an alternative
space for artists? A lot of these young artists, they are struggling,
you know. So, for them, it’s very difficult to sustain a space like that. You can see
a lot of these little studios, you know. The, the–these artists are creating art with basically
nothing, you know. (Speaking in Spanish w/ English Subtittle)
This is a very recent movement and therefore is very fragile. It can break very easily.
(Speaking in Spanish w/ English Subtittle) Anyone will say this is crazy, these guys
are crazy. But I think the artist seeks satisfactions that go beyond anything that has to do with
money. I think what’s at stake here is, is different
because I think the moment in which a lot of these new galleries have emerged in Tijuana
was really, uh, a moment in which the city itself was, was trying to recover and, and
reclaim space. (Speaking in Spanish w/ English Subtittle)
If we are defeated the city will be defeated. Here, they’re not just creating workspaces,
they’re the creating public spaces and, and in my mind, that’s a big, big difference. Speaking in Spanish w/ English Subtittle)
What happened three years ago here in the passageway is like throwing a stone in the
water. There will be these creases of water and hopefully it will be something positive
for the city and the community. (Slow rock music is playing.) (Instrumental music is playing.) My name is Amy Sanchez and I am, um, a curator,
as well as an educator based in San Diego, but I’m originally from the Imperial County,
and I’m covering stories and news there for Artbound. I wrote the article, um, about Manuel
Paul Lopez because it was meaningful to me on a, a lot of levels even just seeing the,
the title of the book like 1984. For a very literary public, they immediately thought
of, you know, the great novel that for other people, um, you know, for, you know, friends
from Central America, for instance, it’s a, uh, very violent memory of, of, of Civil War.
He’s creating, um, this narrative where you’re getting all of these elements of a 1980s childhood,
but also, I think, a lot of these really meaningful particular memories about what it is to grow
up in the border and what it is to be a border child. I was really excited when I found out
that so many people had voted for the article. I was really happy to see that support from
the community, and I think in terms of the video, it’s wonderful. Um, it was, it was
beautiful to see it come alive. He’s using a lot of influences from, you know, kind of,
graphic culture, thinking about comics, thinking about that kind of mass media production.
To, to then to see that point of inspiration bloom, um, and blossom in, in this animation
I thought was, was very soothing. (Man walking towards library building.) (Man is sitting on the stairs reading the
“1984” booklet.) In 1984, I didn’t read 1984 because I was
really young and couldn’t read that well. And even if I could’ve, I probably wouldn’t
have read it because who wants to read a big, fat boring book about a miserable year anyway?
In 1984, I grew up beneath my big brother, Carlos’s, watchful eyes. I’d eventually learned
that my big brother, Carlos’, eyes were so enlarge because he had a condition. His nickname
was El Tecolote. El Tecolote watched everything I did with those big aqueous owl-like eyes.
He watched everything I did with that condition, El Tecolote. In 1984, I didn’t reach Schopenhauer
even though I would eventually reach Schopenhauer in high school. A time when I flexed my cerebral
cortex like a Tony Atlas bicep because somehow I knew more than anyone did at my school even
though they didn’t know it yet, I’d read Schopenhauer and they hadn’t. This profound truth, however,
did little to stop the sweaty job fixated on snapping wet towel across my back. If I
could have, I would have read Schopenhauer in 1984. If I could have, I would have stolen
every single towel from every single school gymnasium in the world and hid them in the
basement of some unidentified human torture museum on the moon. In 1984, my favorite word
to write on papers besides my name, even though it wasn’t quite a name, was ’84. The power
to abbreviate 1984 turned me on even though it wasn’t quite a word. In 1984, my cousin
liked to say “This turns me on,” whenever we watched Van Halen Hot for Teacher video.
I didn’t quite know what he meant, but I like the way “This turns me on” sounded, the way
it felt in my mouth. In 1984, I slept with the humidifier on. It sounded like one of
those creepy Sleestaks from Land of the Lost, except my humidifier comforted me instead
of creeping me out like those Sleestaks with big aqueous eyes like my brother, Tecolotes.
“That thing is going to warp your bedroom furniture,” my mom complained. “But it was
the only way I could dream good dreams,” I told her. “To dream good dreams,” I said.
In 1984, my mom read me Mayakovsky sbefore I fell asleep. In 1984, my catechism teacher
sent me home when I recited the Cloud in Trousers instead of three Hail Marys. In 1984, I ate
a large Papa Bill’s Pizza by myself and couldn’t sleep for two nights. My mom finally believed
me when I clutched my stomach and complained, “I think I’m lactose intolerant.” In 1984,
I declared pizza my, oh, most favorite food. In 1984, my bedtime was 8:00 PM. In 1984,
I pointed out my friends from my window, “Tap, tap,” while they played hide and seek without
me. 8:02 PM. In 1984, I wish library books had buttons, a joystick, and a high score
to beat. In 1984, I told the neighborhood El Tecolote raised his arms in the air one
night and caught a shooting star with the muddy tube sock he stretched open high above
his head. In 1984, El Tecolote wrote an anonymous poem for a girl he liked that used the word,
“Betwixt in it.” I found it in a drawer where El Tecolote kept his chones. In 1984, my grandpa
taught me how to cut rainclouds with a machete. That spring, we made wet confetti of the nimbi
and stopped rain just like that. It was weird and kind of sad, though, because for some
reason or another, I felt an immediate and inconsolable guilt when I saw a single bird
standing on a tree branch looking up at an empty sky. I learned something else that day
besides how to cut rainclouds to stop the rain. Someone or something might need water
more than I do at any given moment. In 1984, Wicho’s sister Gloria told me that it happened
when her cousin, Diego, stole a pair of wings made of zigzag paper and jumped from the El
Centro Water Tower. “He got too close to the sun,” she said. “Way too high and with his
wings on fire, he fell down and couldn’t survive the fall, but he was brave,” she said, “And
looked so beautiful up there.” I guess that’s what big kids tell small kids when they need
to explain things like death. In 1984, I memorized the lyrics to every song of Motley Crue Shout
at the Devil album. Motley Crue songs turned me on, too. In 1984, my grandfather cried
when Count Basie died. Even though Jose Alfredo Jimenez was our favorite singer, I cried,
too, because my grandfather cried. In 1984, I sang Born in the U.S.A. whenever we crossed
back into the States from Mexicali. My dad grumbled something unintelligibly. My mom
laughed quietly into a sleeve, and El Tecolote only stared into the night with a creepy grin
on his face. In 1984, my dad had to pull over every time we traveled long distances because
I was prone to car sickness, puking on the side of the road with my mom holding a 7 Up
near my mouth. I cry quite dramatically, “How am I ever going to see Moscow?” I still haven’t
been there. In 1984, I wrote a long and shaky scripted declaration on Wildwood Grade School
paper reclaiming 1984 as my own, the final line, because it’s mine and not that crazy
viejas Grace Jones. In 1984, I woke up one night to El Tecolote crying, intermittently
mumbling something to the bubbly saliva sounding effect “I hate this condition. I hate this
condition. I hate this condition.” The next day, I snuck into El Tecolote’s room to see
if his anonymous love poem was still in his chones drawer, it wasn’t. Somehow I knew it
wouldn’t be. In 1984, I prayed for El Tecolote, and still do. In 1984, I loved everything
at the speed of light. In 1984, I heard silence for the first time and kindly asked silence
to quiet down. In 1984, I cracked the fortune cookie in half and read “Everything lasts
forever, but needn’t be if one ever plans to breathe again.” Because of that, I’ve always
thought fortune cookies turned me on too. Here we are. (Rodrigo Amarante- “Nada Em Vao”)
Nada em vão No espaço entre eu e você
No silêncio um grito O sim e o não Eis então
Que o pedaço de mim Que é só teu
É intento sem Tanto intenção Quando eu vejo você
Me olhando assim Vendo em mim
O que eu vejo em ti Qual razão
É medir o imenso da sede Se cede o senso
À sensação Ilusão
É a veste que Faz-te volver
Que me envolve e verte Afeto e afã Quando eu vejo você
Me olhando assim Vendo em mim
O que eu vejo em ti (Audience cheering and clapping.)

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