Border Tracing/Imaginary Geographies
Within every border is inscribed both the history of colonialization and the buried history of the colonized. These histories come to light through fantasies, science fiction fabulations, speculations, sketches, or simply the act of crossing. There is no future free of the past, but the writers and artists on this panel all investigate alternative formulations that reconfigure questions of history and power.
Samiya Bashir, “Maps” (multimedia poetry presentation)
“When will children stop wanting,” asks young Askar, the central character in groundbreaking Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah’s Maps, the first novel in his Blood in the Sun trilogy (Maps, Gifts, and Secrets). “[W]hen will they accomplish something not as children but as beings?” I hope to present, in progress, an ongoing poetry of erasure as pulled through Farah's trilogy. The poems resist resolution of Askar’s questions, instead pushing them to what may suggest a next generation of questions not alone, but in the same vein of continuum with which Farah himself has taken on (in dense trilogy after dense trilogy) several decades of East African (&colonial) history through character. At present, I am still completing my work with Maps. So, while I can’t yet say how the pieces will live in completion, I would like to engage them (physically) with light, with the projection of language and sound, with the visual imagery being mapped alongside their creation. I’d like its choreographed interaction with live bodies in an interactive space to inform my continuing process and the compass of its cartography.
Hilary Mushkin, “Selections from the Incendiary Traces Archive” (digital slide presentation)
Incendiary Traces is a collective exploration of the role of landscape imagery in international conflict through public on-site drawing events, artistic, historical and geographic research, and the publication of related materials by diverse contributors. Artbound, KCET’s arts and culture transmedia journalism program, has been chronicling the project since 2012. Through online reports and essays by various writers, Incendiary Traces is building an archive of drawings, photographs, stories and scholarly research related to the experiences of project participants and the militarized sites we visit, tour, draw, and otherwise “trace”. This blend of art, research and media provides a way for the public to re-imagine contemporary battle space and connect more closely to foreign conflict. For &Now 2015, I will present a selection of images and materials from the archive. For example, these items might include: a map made on tour with the US-Mexico border patrol depicting spatial and linguistic points of interest; survival cards listing “ten commandments of survival in the desert when lost or stranded” published by the 29 Palms Marine Base; a plein-air watercolor made at Northrop Grumman’s Redondo Beach radar and telemetry facilities; or an annotated 1942 crime scene photograph made by a Santa Barbara sheriff to analyze a Japanese attack on coastal oil fields. I will speak about each image shown, giving a brief story about its connection to the project and read select writings that have been published in relation to visual materials. The presentation will thereby offer insights into the instrumental roles linguistic and visual representations of landscape play in understanding international conflict.
Pepe Rojo, “You can see the future from here: Border experiential futures” (a presentation slash screening (with freebies included))
“Desde aquí se ve el futuro” was a series of science fiction-based interventions made during a two month period on the busiest border crossing on the world: Tijuana-San Ysidro. Two hundred artists, mostly students from UABC (Baja California’s Autonomous University), collaborated with images, artwork, dance, theatre and conceptual performances, installations, short stories, and readings in a collective imagination exercise of the near future of the border. A procession was carried out for a saint from the future, a swap meet was enacted (with its own currency), a short wave radio station transmitted for cars stuck at the border’s waiting line and a newspaper from 2043 was distributed among the border-crossers. This presentation (which includes videos) will give an overview of the interventions.
Stephanie Sauer, “The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force” (performative presentation)
The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force – the first artist book to be published by the University of Texas Press (October 2015) – is a semi-fictional account of the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF), a historical Chicano/a artist-activist collective renowned for their fleet of "adobe airplanes," subversive performance stance, and their key role as the “graphic arts arm of the United Farm Workers Union” during the Chicano civil rights movement (Pilots of Aztlán 1994). The book engages the tensions between fact and fiction in the construction of historical consciousness and public memory. Its very fiction is a performance and intervention on the notion of historical truth.The book presents “authentic” archives with running historical references to note the blending of Pre-Columbian record-keeping practices with European ones. The performative quality is also evident in the staging of fictional characters like La Stef, lead archeologist of the Con Sapos Collective (played by myself), who attempts to guide readers down the blurred lines between “objective” Western historiography and Indigenous/Chicano cosmologies, but often fails. Nonetheless, the team’s attempts reflect the human predicament of documenting the histories of complicated New Worlds everywhere.This book abandons the didactic instruction of most accounts of subaltern experience aimed at a normatized Western audience, and runs ahead instead with a vivid portrayal of a worldview and a field in which various cultural paradigms already intersect seamlessly on equal ground. At &Now, I will present the archives initially in character to complicate audience perceptions, then directly for greater context.