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TIe FovlaIIe Bovdev Sile-SpeciJicil, Avl, and lIe U. S.

-Mexico Fvonliev
AulIov|s) CIaive F. Fox
Bevieved vovI|s)
Souvce SociaI Texl, No. 41 |Winlev, 1994), pp. 61-82
FuIIisIed I Duke University Press
SlaIIe UBL http://www.jstor.org/stable/466832 .
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The Portable Border
SITE-SPECIFICITY, ART,
AND THE U.S.-MEXICO FRONTIER
All
major metropoli
have been
fully
borderized. In
fact,
there are no Claire F. Fox
longer
visible cultural differences between
Manhattan, Montreal,
Wash-
ington,
Los
Angeles
or Mexico
City. They
all look like downtown
Tijuana
on a
Saturday night.
-Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia,
"The New World
(B)order"'
Its exact location is
problematical;
the awkward fact is, Borderland can
apparently
be found
by heading
for the ruins of
just
about
any large
twentieth
century city.
This
reporter
found it in the rubble of Detroit.
-Life
on the Border2
Today,
"the border" and "border
crossing"
are
commonly
used critical
metaphors among
multicultural and
postmodernist
artists and writers.
According
to Chon
Noriega,
these terms were first
employed
in the 1960s
and 1970s
by
Chicano and Mexican scholars to refer to the
experience
of
undocumented workers from Mexico
crossing
to the United States.3
Indeed,
in Chicano arts and
letters,
"Borderlands" has
replaced
Aztlin as
the
metaphor
of choice to
designate
a communal
space.4
But even
though
the U.S.-Mexico border retains a
shadowy presence
in the
usage
of these
terms,
the border which is
currently
in
vogue
in the
U.S.,
both
among
Chicano scholars and
among
those theorists
working
on other cultural
differences,
is
rarely site-specific.5 Rather,
it is invoked as a marker of
hybrid
or liminal
subjectivities,
such as those which would be
experienced
by persons
who
negotiate among multiple cultural, linguistic, racial,
or
sexual
systems throughout
their lives. When the border is
spatialized
in
these
theories,
that
space
is almost
always
universal. "The Third World
having
been
collapsed
into the
First,"6
as the
argument goes,
the border is
now to be found in
any metropolis-wherever poor, displaced, ethnic,
immigrant,
or sexual
minority populations
collide with the
"hegemonic"
population,
which is
usually
understood to consist of middle- and
upper-
class WASPs.
In this
essay,
I shall examine two sets of aesthetic texts in which the
border
figures prominently
as a
space
of
fantasy
and
sociopolitical
alle-
gory,
with a view toward
challenging
the
project
of
expanding
borders
and the
types
of
experiences
understood
by
the term border
crossing,
which I have outlined above. The first
group
of texts is documentation
relating
to two
performances by
Guillermo
Gomez-Pefia,
Border
Brujo
(1988-90)
and Year
of
the White Bear: The New World
(B)order (1992-93).
Emphasizing
the
social and
cultural dimen-
sions of the
U.S.-Mexico
border over
topographical
ones
immediately
gave
border
consciousness a
certain
mobility.
As a
phenomeno-
logical category,
the border was
something
that
people
carried
within them-
selves,
in addition
to
being
an
external factor
structuring
their
perceptions.
Gomez-Pefia,
a former member of the Border Art
Workshop/Taller
de
Arte Fronterizo
(BAW/TAF),
made U.S.-Mexico border issues a central
theme of his work from the mid- to late 1980s. The video version of Bor-
der
Brujo
marked a shift in G6mez-Pefia's thematic
concerns;
its release in
1990
roughly
coincided with the artist's decision to
deemphasize
the
U.S.-Mexico border
region
while nevertheless
retaining
the border
metaphor
as a means to address
general
issues of cultural
imperialism.
The second
group
of texts is a
subgenre
of
speculative
fiction which has
been termed
"contemporary
urban
fantasy" by
one of its creators.7 Cur-
rently
there are a dozen or so writers in the U.S. and Canada who have
collaborated in
creating
an
imaginary metropolis
called Bordertown.8
Their shared world has been elaborated in three collections of short sto-
ries and three
novels;9
at the time of this
writing,
another
anthology
was
in
press.
An active fan culture has
sprung up
around the Bordertown
series which
ranges
from raves held in Los
Angeles warehouses,
where
guests
re-create "The
Dancing
Ferret"
(a
Bordertown
nightclub),
to
dance
troupes
in several U.S. cities which derive
inspiration
from Bor-
dertown's "Horn Dance" commune. Bordertown's various fan subcul-
tures
promise
to become more mainstream in the near
future,
as one of
the Bordertown novels is
presently being adapted
as a two-hour TV
pilot
for
NBC,
and world
rights
for the stories were
just negotiated.
Both G6mez-Pefia's work and that of the Bordertown collective con-
form with the
type
of
"global
border consciousness" I have outlined
above; neither claims to be
exclusively
about the U.S.-Mexico border. If I
am rather
perversely trying
to tie them to this
particular geographical
region,
it is
indirectly, through
the common issues that these aesthetic
projects
share with
popular
mass media
coverage
of the North American
Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA).
Like the news
media,
the former texts
are
grappling
with
ways
to broach the
subject
of "North American iden-
tity"
in
light
of NAFTA's
putative
threat to national identities. In the U.S.
and
Mexico,
national news and
documentary
sources
constantly represent
the border as a
synecdoche
of the nations it divides.10 That
is, develop-
ments on the border are
perceived
to be
symptomatic
of the overall
status of U.S.-Mexican
relations,
and the
importance
of border events is
presented
from the
point
of view of national actors rather than local
inhabitants. Most
recently,
NAFTA's advocates and detractors
appropri-
ated this
way
of
seeing
the border in order to cast it as "the future" or
"the
cutting edge"
of what would occur
throughout
the North American
continent if NAFTA were ratified. The Bordertown stories and G6mez-
Pefia's recent work also
place
their border zones in a
not-too-distant,
apocalyptic future,
a future which nonetheless
incorporates many
ele-
ments from our immediate
present.
Claire F Fox 62
Globalizing
the Border: Guillermo G6mez-Peha
In his recent
work,
Guillermo
Gomez-Pefia, Chica-lango performance
artist,"
has
increasingly
unmoored his border from the "transfrontier
metropolis"
of San
Diego-Tijuana,
where he was a
founding
member of
BAW/TAF in 1984.12 BAW/TAF was,
and still
is,
a
group
of
Mexican,
Anglo,
and Chicano artists who
engaged
in collaborative multimedia and
interactive art
projects specifically
about the U.S.-Mexico border
region.13
BAW/TAF artists were both
present-minded
and
oppositional,
insofar as
their work
responded critically
to border issues such as
immigration,
human
rights violations,
and
racism,
and
they
were
utopian
in that
they
asked their audiences to
"imagine
a world in which this international
boundary
has been erased."14
Site-specificity-not just
in terms of instal-
lation but also in terms of audience address and thematic issues-became
a
guiding principle
of the
group. Jeff Kelley
described BAW/TAF's
project
as an "art of
place":
An art of
place
is concerned less with the
phenomenal
and
geological aspects
of a
place
than with the
cultural, historical, ethnic, linguistic, political,
and
mythological
dimensions of a site. To some
degree,
of
course,
site and
place
are matters of
interchangeable perception. Thus,
we see
site-specific
art
transformed into a
place particular practice
which
represents
the domestica-
tion
and/or
socialization of the '70s
site,
and defines
approaches
to art-mak-
ing
in which a
place,
a
condition,
or an occasion is seen and worked as the
materials of human or social
exchange.
A
place
is not
merely
a medium of
art,
but also its contents.15
For
G6mez-Pefia,
as for other BAW/TAF
members,
the border was
always
much more than a line
demarcating
national
space. Emphasizing
the social
and cultural dimensions of the U.S.-Mexico border over
topographical
ones
immediately gave
border consciousness a certain
mobility.
As a
phe-
nomenological category,
the border was
something
that
people
carried
within
themselves,
in addition to
being
an external factor
structuring
their
perceptions.
G6mez-Pefia's endeavors in
performance
art
prior
to
forming
BAW/TAF (e.g.,
with
Poyesis Genetica)16 suggest
that he was
already
working through
ideas about liminal
subjectivities
before he attached them
to the San
Diego-Tijuana region. Emphasizing subjectivity
as
predomi-
nant over social
geography, however,
facilitated his later
expansion
of the
border to
encompass
"the World." This shift is
clearly
evident in several
essays
he
published
in U.S. arts media
during
the
period immediately
prior
to and
following
his break with BAW/TAF In his 1988
essay
"Doc-
umented/Undocumented,"
for
example,
G6mez-Pefia referred to the
The Portable Border 63
process
of world
"borderization,"
but he also
privileged
the deterritorial-
ized
perspective
of the
(U.S.-Mexico)
border
artist,
which allowed him or
her to act as facilitator of intercultural
dialogue among
ethnic
groups.17
In
his 1989 "Multicultural
Paradigm,"
G6mez-Pefia extended the role of
"border crosser" to all North Americans and all readers of his work:
Today,
if there is a dominant
culture,
it is border culture. And those who still
haven't crossed a border will do it
very
soon. All Americans
(from
the vast
continent of
America) were,
are or will be border crossers. "All
Mexicans,"
says
Tomas
Ybarra-Frausto,
"are
potential
Chicanos." As
you
read this
text,
you
are
crossing
a border
yourself.18
Gomez-Pefia's next
step
was to make the border
global.
"From Art-
mageddon
to
Gringostroika,"
an
essay published
in 1991 in
High Perfor-
mance, found him
speaking
of
many geographical borders,
from the
Americas to the iron curtain. But
geographical
borders were all but
upstaged
in this
essay by
a
new, temporal
threshold. G6mez-Pefia
wrote,
"We stand
equi-distant
from
utopia
and
Armageddon,
with one foot on
each side of the
border,
and our art and
thought
reflects this condition."19
This
apocalyptic
look toward the next
millennium, signified by
a
vertigi-
nous
time-space compression,
has since become a
major
theme of
G6mez-Pefia's
work,
and I will discuss it in relation to the Bordertown
series later in this
essay.
I would like
first, however,
to discuss how G6mez-Pefia's incremen-
tally expanding
border has
impacted upon
his visual work. As I stated ear-
lier,
the release of the video version of Border
Brujo
in 1990 can be read as
a
signpost
of the shift in his
thinking
about borders in relation to
place.
In
some
ways
the video is an anomalous conclusion to his involvement with
BAW/TAF,
for it was released
just
as the collective was in the throes of
reorganization
and
shortly
before Gomez-Pefia denounced border art alto-
gether
in several
highly publicized
articles in 1991.20 Isaac
Artenstein,
a
Mexican-born filmmaker well known for his movie Break
of
Dawn
(1988),
about the rise of
Spanish-language
radio in Los
Angeles, produced
and
directed Border
Brujo
after G6mez-Pefia had
successfully
toured the
per-
formance for two
years (1988-90)
in North America and
Europe.21
The
publicity
for Border
Brujo
describes it as a
performance
"in
which Guillermo G6mez-Pefia transforms himself into 15 different
per-
sonas to exorcise the demons of dominant cultures. In
English, Spanish,
Spanglish, Inglefol
and Nahuatl-bicameral."
People
familiar with
BAW/
TAF's
previous
work would note immediate continuities of
theme,
cos-
tume, iconography,
and sets between Border
Brujo
and
previous BAW/
TAF
projects.
This was also not the first time that a BAW/TAF member
had used video to record a
performance.22
For the most
part,
Border
Brujo
privileges
documentation of G6mez-Pefia's
performance
over
experimen-
Claire F Fox
tation with the video medium itself. Its camera movement and
editing
are
relatively
nonintrusive; other than alternation between medium shots and
close-ups
of
G6mez-Pefia,
the camera
only
cuts for brief moments to
extreme
close-ups
of the
props
that
comprise
the altar-set. There is one
sequence
in which Artenstein's camera work breaks
markedly
with this
tendency.
In the "Casa de Cambio"
sequence,
Gomez-Pefia
plays
a
Tijuana
barker who advertises the various transformations of
personal
identity
available to those who dare to cross the border.23 The video
rapidly
cuts from camera
positions
to the left and
right
of
G6mez-Pefia,
establishing
an
imaginary
line that
actually
bisects his
body.
This tech-
nique represents
a drastic
departure
from the
way
that
Hollywood editing
has used an
imaginary
borderline in narratives set in the U.S.-Mexico
border
region, namely,
as a
structuring
device that
segregates
rather than
integrates opposing
elements of "cultural identities."
The
piece's
transformation from
performance
to video was marked
by
additional
features, however,
which
suggest
a shift in the
way
Gomez-Pefia
conceived of his mass media audience. For one
thing,
in the earlier in situ
versions of the
piece,
he interacted with the audience
during
the
perfor-
mance. He would shine a
flashlight
on them and
interrogate
them in a
parody
of a Border Patrol
agent,
for
example,
and at the end of the
per-
formance,
he collected items from various members of the audience which
he added to his altar-set for future
performances
or buried on the U.S.-
Mexico border. The video does not
portray
an audience at
all,
nor does
the camera ever cut to
give
a
point-of-view
shot from G6mez-Pefia's
per-
spective.
In the live
versions,
G6mez-Pefia often
changed portions
of his
script
to include the name of the
place
where he was
performing
and
other
site-specific
information. Three
published
versions of the
script,
for
example,
include a
great
deal of material about
California, specifically
about San
Diego-Tijuana.24
In the video
version,
on the other
hand,
there
are fewer references to the location of the
performance,
and at one
point
G6mez-Pefia refers to
"Sushi,"
the
performance space-gallery
that
sup-
ported
the video's
production. Finally,
and
perhaps
most
importantly,
Gomez-Pefia
ultimately
deleted from the video version almost all of the
large
chunks that were in
Spanish,
as well as some of the more
politically
pointed critiques
in
English.25
It is worth
remarking
that
many
of these outtakes were
eventually
recut into
another,
much shorter
piece,
entitled Son
of
Border Crisis: Seven
Video Poems
(1990).
The latter video is a sort of alter
ego
to the former. It
contains more material in
Spanish,
and because its
roughly
fifteen minutes
of
footage
is broken
up
into seven
segments,
the
pace
is
aphoristic
rather
than sermonic. It even
opens
with an exterior shot of Gomez-Pefia in
front of
Sushi, pitching
the show to
potential spectators through
a
mega-
phone.
This video was released
largely
due to demand from Chicano and
The Portable Border 65
G6mez-Pena,
who has
consistently
called attention
to the
already
"borderized" state
of U.S. cultures,
subverts the idea
of an
Anglo
majority
in North
America
by
asking:
What if
NAFTA lifted
barriers to
immigration
on the continent?
What if the roles
between
Gringos
and Mexicans
were reversed?
Latino film festivals in the
U.S.,
and also from festivals in Latin America
and
Spain,
for a
sample
of Artenstein and G6mez-Pefa's
project
that fit in
well with the time constraints of
short-subject programming.26
As Gomez-Pefia was
moving
toward a solo career based in New York
and
gaining
access to a broader "alternative art" audience
through
his
video,
he was
simultaneously attacking
the
co-optation
of the border-art
movement
by major
museums and
galleries
in the
press.27
A
key
com-
plaint
on his
part
was that BAW/TAF, which had in some sense
brought
border art to the attention of the national arts
community,
was now
being
ignored by
that same
community.
He criticized the La
Jolla
Museum of
Contemporary
Art
(now
the Museum of
Contemporary Art,
San
Diego)
for
raising
half a million dollars to
"bring big
names from out of town" for
a
four-year
border-art
project.28 Perhaps
for
G6mez-Pefia, being
"deter-
ritorialized" from the U.S.-Mexico border
region
itself
provided
him with
the rationale for
abandoning
an "art of
place"
in favor of the more
general
"New World
(B)order."
The New World
(B)order
is a 1992-93
performance
written and
directed
by
Gomez-Pefia and
performed by
G6mez-Pefia and Coco
Fusco. An
essay by
the same name and
closely following
the text of the
performance
has also been
published
in
High Performance,
and a
script
was
recently published
in the Drama Review.29 The format of the
perfor-
mance is
loosely
based on a news or radio broadcast in which the two
characters, El Aztec
High-Tech (G6mez-Pefia)
and Miss
Discovery
92(93) (Fusco),
alternate in
presenting
their
descriptions
of the new
world. As in Border
Brujo,
each character
actually comprises many
differ-
ent voices and
personae.
The New World
(B)order
was conceived as
part
of
a
larger, year-long project relating
to the
quincentenary,
entitled The Year
of
the White
Bear,
which included a
trilogy
of
performances,
as well as
essays
and radio broadcasts. Gomez-Pefia assembled a team of
Mexican,
Chicano,
and Caribbean artists from the East and West Coasts to collab-
orate on various
aspects
of the
productions.30
Like Border
Brujo,
The New
World
(B)order
was
adapted
for television
by
filmmaker Daniel
Salazar;
it
was scheduled for distribution in fall 1994.31
Rhetorically speaking,
The New World
(B)order
takes
up
a
strategy
which Gomez-Pefa has identified elsewhere as common in border art. In
the
piece
he
plays
with role reversals in order to
"adopt
a
position
of
privilege
and
speak
from a
position
of
privilege
even
though
we know it's
a fictional
position."32
Gomez-Pefia creates these
hypothetical
situations
out of contradictions
presently operative
in U.S.
political
discourse. One
such contradiction is the
promotion
of a united North America
by
advo-
cates of free trade even as the continent's national
populations
remain
juridically segregated
from one another.
G6mez-Peia,
who has consis-
tently
called attention to the
already
"borderized" state of U.S.
cultures,
Claire F Fox 66
subverts the idea of an
Anglo majority
in North America
by asking:
What
if NAFTA lifted barriers to
immigration
on the continent? What if the
roles between
Gringos
and Mexicans were reversed?
Following
the arrival
of
"Gringostroika"33
to the North American
continent,
geo-political
borders have faded
away.
Due to the
implementation
of a Free
Raid
Agreement
and the creation of a Zona de Libre
Cogercio34
the nations
formerly
known as
Canada,
the United States and Mexico have
merged
painlessly
to create the Federation of U.S. Republics. FUSR is controlled
by
a Master Chamber of
Commerce,
a
Department
of Trans-national Tourism
and a Media
Junta.35
Laggard, separatist Gringos
in turn have flocked to the former U.S.-
Mexico border and have become the next wave of
low-wage maquiladora
and fast-food workers.
Gomez-Pefia's fin de siecle continent is no
utopia, despite
the disso-
lution of the
Anglo-dominated
state and the
adoption
of
Spanglish
and
Gringofiol
as the official
languages.
Even as the FUSR
promotes
an offi-
cial commerce-oriented version of multiculturalism
through
its
gigantic
media
apparatus,
a
flurry
of
separatist
nationalisms demand
sovereignty:
"Quebec,
Puerto
Rico, Aztldn, Yucatan, Panama,
and all Indian nations
have
managed
to secede from the new Federation of U.S.
Republics.
Inde-
pendent micro-republics
are
popping up everywhere
in the blink of an
eye."36
Gomez-Pefia also devotes considerable attention to
describing
the
youth
of the New World
(B)order,
whom he divides into two
camps:
robo-raza I and robo-raza II. The
former,
"the new citizens of horizontal
nothingness,"
are
technophilic
mall rats who lack the consciousness and
passion
to become
engaged
in
any type
of "cause." On the other
hand,
robo-raza
II, together
with former
artists,
form
part
of the resistance
movement known as Arteamerica Sociedad Anonima:
Every
block has a secret
community
center where the
runaway youths,
called
robo-raza
II, publish
an anarchistic laser-xerox
magazine,
edit
experimental
home videos on
police brutality (yes, police brutality
still
exists)
and broad-
cast
pirate
radio interventions over the most
popular programs
of Radio
Nuevo Orden.37
Robo-raza II are
presented
as a nonsectarian
bright spot
in this otherwise
bleak scenario of transnationalist/nationalist binarisms. Their role as the
hope
for the future is underlined
by
Gomez-Pefa's
contrasting
and
derogatory
treatment of the
retrograde
"Mafias" at the
essay's (and
per-
formance's)
conclusion. The Mafias are ethnic and nationalist
purists,
such as the "Chicano
Aristocracy
from East L.A." and the "Real African
The Portable Border 67
Nation,"
who
"cling
to the
past
in order to
experience
an
optical
illusion
of
continuity
and order."38
In
interviews,
G6mez-Pefia now refers to himself as a "cross-cultural
diplomat,"39
and one notes in his recent work an
ever-increasing
faith in
the
political effectivity
of art and artists.
BAW/TAF
conceived of its artis-
tic
projects
as
working
in concert with other activities such as
journalism,
education,
and
political
activism. That
is,
art
projects
were but one
aspect
of the
group's site-specific
work. In a recent
essay,
in
contrast,
Gomez-
Peiia
argues, following
a
prophecy
of
Joseph Beuys
from the
1970s,
that
art became
politics
and
politics
became art
by
the second half of the
1980s.40 He
proceeds
to create a continuum of "Performance Politics or
Political Performance
Art,"41
under which he assembles
many
artists and
activists in the U.S. and Latin
America,
based
upon
their common use of
performative strategies
to achieve
political goals.
To this new breed of
grassroots artist-politician,
G6mez-Pefa contrasts certain conservative
forces that have on several occasions
appropriated performance
art and
progressive popular-culture
icons in order to bolster state
power.
The idea of the
performance
artist's
power transcending
that of the
"nonaesthetic"
political
activist is identified in several sources with a
trip
G6mez-Pefia took to the Soviet Far East as
part
of a binational human
rights commission,
when he realized that "the artist as intercultural
diplomat
is able to cross
many
borders that
political
activists are unable
to."42 The idea is consistent with a trend in the work of
many
of the
post-
modern
theorists,
such as
Henry Giroux,
lain
Chambers,
and D.
Emily
Hicks
(former BAW/TAF
collaborator and ex-wife of
G6mez-Pefia),
who
highlight
certain
professions
as those which facilitate "border cross-
ing."
In texts
by
the latter
theorists,
"cultural
workers,"
identified as
artists, writers, educators, architects,
and
lawyers, among others,
are
por-
trayed
as
having "primacy"43
in
processes
of social
transformation,
because their
jobs give
them a
unique position
from which to
"dialogue"
with "Others."44
There are other
reasons, however,
which
may
account for the ease of
such border
crossings by professionals
and intellectuals. The U.S.-Mexico
border has
rarely presented
itself as a hindrance to
artists, intellectuals,
and
tourists,
for
example,
but then
again,
these
crossings
are not demo-
graphically representative
of other
large-scale
flows of border traffic which
currently
characterize the
region,
such as that of undocumented workers
northward and that of U.S.
capital
southward. The de facto
emergence
of
the
metropolis
as the site of border
crossings
in the work of
postmodern
theorists,
in the wake of
allegedly collapsed
national
boundaries,
has in a
sense made it
possible
for these intellectuals to conceive of
crossing
bor-
ders while
remaining
in the same
place, simply by carrying
out the duties
of their
profession.
Claire F Fox 68
G6mez-Pefia's
periodization
of the
art-politics merger
in the late
1980s is concomitant with the
emergence
of an
oppositional
"artist-
administrator"
figure
that Grant Kester has identified as characteristic of
the "alternative arts"
sphere
in the U.S.
during
the same
period.45
Artists
whose work was deemed controversial or obscene
by
the NEA and other
government-supported art-funding agencies during
the
Reagan-Bush
era
were often
publicized
as victims of
censorship stemming
from
racism,
sexism,
or
homophobia.
On a thematic
level,
these artists linked their own
victimization at the hands of the
right wing
to other forms of
oppression
such as
poverty
and homelessness.
According
to
Kester, many
"alterna-
tive" artists who
gained notoriety during
this
period
based their artwork
upon
a declared
solidarity
between artists and "the
oppressed"
and
posi-
tioned themselves as
spokespersons,
if not as
members,
of their avowed
constituencies. G6mez-Pefia's
self-presentation
as a shaman in
perfor-
mances such as Border
Brujo
has
clearly
been read
by academics, journal-
ists,
and others as that of a
spokesperson
for all border crossers. His
descriptions
of "border
consciousness,"
for
example, appear repeatedly
in
a recent article
by
an
anthropologist
about a transborder
migration
circuit
of undocumented workers between
Aguililla, Mexico,
and Redwood
City,
California,
but at no
point
in the article does the author
quote
his own
informants
regarding
their
lifestyle
and consciousness.46
The Mass Media Border: The Bordertown Series
G6mez-Pefia's
recasting
of the border as a
global
and
temporal
zone was
in
part
a reaction to the border
hype already generated
on a national
level,
not
just by major
U.S. art museums but also
by popular culture,
as
in Taco Bell's "Make a Run for the Border" ad
campaign,
which featured
Latino musicians and celebrities.47 Within
popular culture, however,
there have also
appeared progressive attempts
to
portray
border
zones,
such as that of the Bordertown series. In contrast to G6mez-Pefia's
point
of
departure
in San
Diego-Tijuana,
these narratives take as their
starting
point
G6mez-Pefia's
present global
border
perspective.
That
is,
the bor-
der of the
fantasy
stories is
already non-site-specific, futuristic,
and
urban. The authors claim that their models for Bordertown are
any
num-
ber of world cities where
they
have lived. It is
difficult, therefore,
to read
Bordertown as an
allegory
of one
particular geographical referent,
although
the
type
of
globalism
in the stories remains
very U.S.-centered,
as
suggested by
the
youth
cultures as well as the
range
of ethnicities
por-
trayed.48
The creator of the Bordertown
series,
Terri
Windling,
is a writer and
painter
who
through
her
experience
as
consulting
editor for Ace and Tor
The Portable Border 69
(both
sci-fi and
fantasy imprints)
is credited with
having developed
and
promoted "contemporary
urban
fantasy"
literature and with
having
con-
tributed to the current boom in shared-world
anthologies.49 Demograph-
ically speaking,
the books in the series are aimed at sixteen- to
eighteen-
year-olds
who watch
MTV, although
an active fan culture exists
among
adults as well.
Windling
and the writers of the series affirm that the devel-
opment
of
strong
characters is central to the
narratives,
and that the
prin-
cipal
border of the series is to be understood as
psychological
rather than
geographical-it
is the border between childhood and
adulthood,
between
dreams and
reality.50
The stories are meant to be "narratives of
empower-
ment" which show adolescents
confronting
obstacles and
making
deci-
sions without the intervention of adults.
The externalization of the adolescent
psyche
in the
physical
and social
environment is what interests me about
Bordertown, especially
since the
characters are
quite
often
explained
as the
products
of their "environ-
ment" in the first
place.51
The stories are set sometime after "the
Change,"
that
is,
the
relatively
recent
reemergence
of the Faerie
king-
dom
(after
several centuries'
hiatus),
which has witnessed the rise of
racial
animosity
between elves
(a.k.a. Truebloods)
and humans. Elves
speak
Elvish
among themselves,
a
language
inscrutable to humans and
largely
untranslatable into
English,
and
they speak English
with an accent.
They
are
portrayed
as
cool, dispassionate,
and formal in contrast
to
sloppy, neurotic,
and emotional humans.
Physically,
the elves are
exceptionally tall,
with
extremely pale
skin and white hair.
Capable
of
magic
and often
wealthy, they appear
to be dominant over the
humans,
but each race is both attracted to and
repulsed by
the other to some
degree.
The
elves,
for
example,
are often shown to be
dependent upon
human
subcultures,
which
they tap
for
musical, literary,
and artistic
inspiration.52
The
humans,
on the other
hand,
are attracted to elvin
beauty
and
magic.
Elfland and "the World" remain
relatively
isolated from one another
with the
exception
of
Bordertown,
a contact zone
disparaged
as
culturally
deracinated
by
both "centers" but
serving
as a
magnet
for fortune
hunters, dissidents, misfits,
and
runaways
from both cultures.
Here,
trans-
gression
of boundaries
through smuggling,
encroachment on one
another's
turf,
or interracial sex is
commonplace
but not
generally
con-
doned. The series focuses on one
particular neighborhood
called
SoHo,
inhabited
by teenage runaways
from both cultures.53 Most of Bordertown
youth
culture is
violent, separatist,
and
organized
around various street
gangs.
This environment is
especially
difficult for Bordertown's
"halfies,"
the
offspring
of elves and
humans,
who are
usually
forced to
"pass"
if
they
want to survive. But the heroes of Bordertown's
vignettes
are
always
those
youths
who dare to establish nonsectarian communities amidst the
Claire F Fox
omnipresent danger
of the streets. These brief
utopian
moments
usually
occur at narrative closure.
Several authors have
acknowledged diversity
within this
imaginary
world,
which looks
largely
to
Anglo-Saxon
and Celtic folklore as its found-
ing texts, by introducing
new ethnic
geographies
into the
city,
such as
Dragontown,
a
Japanese neighborhood,
and
Tintown,
a
barrio,
and
by
developing
black, Native
American,
and Mexican characters. One
imper-
ative remains constant
throughout
the Bordertown stories: moments of
cultural
understanding,
be
they
between humans or between humans and
elves,
take
place
on a cultural
plane,
that
is, through group
activities
around
bands,
dance
clubs,
used-book
stores,
bohemian
communes,
the
production
and distribution of
underground newspapers,
and so on. As I
have
argued
with
regard
to G6mez-Pefia's New World
(B)order,
an intel-
lectual-lumpen
alliance enacted
through
collaborative cultural
projects
is
held
up
in the series to be the antidote to racism and other
types
of
oppression.
The Bordertown writers have
tacitly
refused to address the reasons
for Elfland's return and the events that
precipitated
"the
Change"
in
any
comprehensive way.54
We do know that Bordertown is a "trade
zone,"
set
up by
elves for the
purpose
of commerce with humans. Elfland is
repeat-
edly
described as
being
situated to the World's north. The
city
itself is
demarcated
by
two salient
geographical
features-an enormous wall
sep-
arating
Elfland
proper
from the
World,
and a red river whose fish are con-
taminated
(by magic)
and whose water turns humans into brain-dead
junkies. Only
elves have the
privilege
to
pass
back and forth from Elfland
to the World
through
a
gate
staffed
by
elvin customs
agents.
Humans
may only
dream about what lies on the other side.
All of this should sound
vaguely
familiar to North American readers:
a trade
zone,
humans lured to the north
by promises
of
magic,
a
wall,
a
toxic
river, immigration restrictions,
customs officials. ... As Border-
town is fleshed out in successive
works,
it more and more
closely
resem-
bles an
export processing
zone.
Though
the Bordertown writers have not
consciously
modeled their
imaginary
world on the U.S.-Mexico border
region,
their elaboration of the border as a trade zone and an area of cul-
tural
integration
would
probably
have been
unimaginable
before the mid-
1960s.
Urban,
industrialized national borders are a
relatively
new and
growing phenomenon
in the world economic
system, especially
in the
emerging
trade blocs of North America and
Europe, yet
this
type
of bor-
der is
rarely represented
in U.S.
popular genres. Instead,
the border con-
tinues to be
portrayed
as a no man's land or a war zone. The Bordertown
writers
recognize
these traditional
readings
of the border in their
work,
yet they try
to imbue this familiar
dystopian space
with more
positive
aspects.
The Portable Border 71
Though
the Bordertown stories do not
explore
the contradiction
between the free flow of
goods
and the restricted flow of
people
which is
central to G6mez-Pefia's New World (B)order, one recent Bordertown
text,
Will
Shetterly's
novel
Elsewhere,
touched on this issue. It deals with a
conspiracy
of "liberal" elf
operatives working
undercover in Bordertown.
One of them discloses his mission to a human friend at the end of the
novel:
"For the Lords of
Faerie,
the Border is an inconvenient
necessity.
It
permits
trade,
and it
keeps
out
humans,
and it allows elves to
pass through
at
only
a
few locations. All of these
things
are seen as desirable.
"But there are those who think Faerie and the World should have
greater
knowledge
of each other." He
glanced
at
Wiseguy
and smiled. "Strider and I
are of that
party."55
In this
fantasy
of role
reversal,
Elfland
occupies
the
position
of a neo-
colonialist
power,
and humans in turn become
exploited
"Third World"
subjects. Bordertown, however, downplays
national
identity
in favor of
racial and cultural divisions. The nation-state has
disappeared
in the
series,
and the U.S. cities from which Bordertown's human
runaways
flee
are now
simply places
in the World.
Technology
and Postnationalism
At one
point
in "The New World
(B)order,"
G6mez-Pefia
self-reflexively
recalls his former
identity
as a border artist and in so
doing
evokes the
image
of a
nationally
coded
space,
now defunct:56
A techno-shrine to
Juan Soldado, Holy
Patron of border-crossers and
migrant workers,
now stands on what used to be the San Ysidro border
check
point.
With
multi-image projections,
the old border saint reminds
peo-
ple
of what once was a common
yet dangerous experience, crossing
from the
Third to the First
World,
from the
past
to the future. Remember?57
His
question,
"Remember?" asks his audience to recall the
site-specific
focus which has all but
disappeared
from his recent
work, replaced by
bicoastal and multinational networks of fellow "cross-cultural
diplomats."
G6mez-Pefia
continually
relies
upon long-distance
communication and
electronic media to
produce
and distribute his work. The Bordertown
writers, geographically dispersed throughout
the U.S. and
Canada,
meet
for dinner once a
year
to discuss
problems
of
continuity among
various
episodes
in the series and the directions
they
would like Bordertown to
Claire F. Fox
take; otherwise, they
communicate to one another
informally
at confer-
ences and via
fax, newsletters,
and e-mail.58
The mode of
production
of these artistic
projects
differs
markedly
from the worlds
they depict.
In terms of
production,
this contradiction
finds the artists
using
international
publishing
and museum
circuits,
and
video
distribution, precisely
in order to advocate
local, community-based
art
movements,
whose
leadership they displace
from themselves onto
youth
cultures.59 On the thematic
level,
the
cyberpunk
hallmark of coun-
terpointing high-tech
and low-tech is met with ambivalence
by
the Bor-
dertown writers and
G6mez-Pefia,
whose "future worlds" are
hardly
more
technologically
advanced than
present-day
U.S.
society.60
For his
part,
G6mez-Pefia has
repeatedly
shunned artists who are
fascinated with
technology
for
technology's
sake. This
tendency
has two
antecedents,
as he
explains
it. The first is from the
performance-art-
monologue
movement of the late
1980s,
associated with Eric
Bogosian,
Spalding Gray,
Karen
Finley,
and Tim
Miller,
who
sought
to "rescue the
spoken
word" from
pyrotechnic spectacles.61
The second comes from a
respect
for the lack of access to
technology
under which
many Chicano,
Mexican,
African
American,
and Native American artists must
operate.62
In the Bordertown
series,
the bias
against technology
is even more
pronounced.
Elvin
magic
tends to make human
technology go haywire,
although magic
itself is
pretty
unreliable in Bordertown. Almost
every
type
of electric or
gas-fueled device,
from motor scooters to
refrigerators
to
burglar alarms,
has become
operable through hybridization-now they
are
powered by
eco-safe
"spell
boxes." The Bordertown
economy
is often
represented
as informal
(street vendors, artists, musicians)
or
illegal
(thieves, smugglers)
and focuses on barter rather than on the
exchange
of
currency (given
that elves can fabricate
precious metals).
The introduc-
tion to the first
anthology
offers several
possible
accounts for the
Change
by recalling
the folklore
concerning
the
disappearance
of Faerie in the
first
place:
"Some
say
it was industrialization and the use of iron that
drove the elvin folk
away,
some
say
the
spread
of
Christianity."63
In other
words,
the return of Faerie is in some sense
predicated upon
the return of
a
preindustrial past.
The arrest of
technological
"modernization" in these texts is linked to
the
disappearance
of other
political
and social institutions such as the
state, army,
and
police
force.64 As I have
pointed out,
the first
pass
in cre-
ating
the New World
(B)order
and Bordertown is the obliteration of the
U.S. nation-state
through
the
processes
of
Gringostroika
and the
Change,
respectively.
The result is that the most salient
remaining geographical
units of
analysis
are
cities,
which
increasingly
resemble one another
through
cultural contact.
The Portable Border 73
Through
their
advocacy
of
cultural border
crossing
and
transgression
of
borders,
G6mez-Peia
and the
Bordertown
writers call
attention to a
major oversight
of NAFTA
negotiations-
immigration
rights.
The
conjunction
of
antitechnology, antinationalist,
and futuristic
discourses within these works is at first
puzzling, given
that in much
mainstream science fiction an
antitechnology
bias is often associated with
reactionary political ideology.65
Current discourses about the future of
North America
again help
to
clarify
how the
position
of G6mez-Pefia
and the Bordertown writers could so
recently
have been recoded as a
"progressive"
stance. In
Mexico,
NAFTA was sold to the
public by
the
ruling
PRI
party
as a
plan
to modernize the
country.
Former President
Carlos Salinas de Gortari even
recuperated
the
figure
of
prerevolutionary
tyrant
Porfirio
Diaz, painting
him as the leader who
brought
Mexico into
the twentieth
century,
in order to underwrite his own neoliberal economic
program.
Mexico's
century-long
drive toward a modernization
supposedly
culminating
in NAFTA has had
strong
affinities with Gomez-Pefia's fin de
siecle
apocalypticism.
In the
U.S., competitiveness
and
efficiency,
rather
than modernization, are the buzzwords of NAFTA
coverage,
but as in
Mexico, they
are
being
used to
justify
a
program
of massive
dislocation,
privatization
of
state-supervised sectors,
and increased R&D
spending
in
high-tech
industries. For Gomez-Pefia and the Bordertown
writers,
all of
whom are
working
in a historical
period
in which state
power
and tech-
nological
advancement are so often
coarticulated, opposition
to NAFTA's
vision of the future
may
find a
logical counterrepresentation
in an alter-
native world where there are no United States and no advancement of
technology,
but instead an efflorescence of cultural
production.
Through
their
advocacy
of cultural border
crossing
and
transgres-
sion of
borders,
Gomez-Pefia and the Bordertown writers call attention to
a major oversight
of NAFTA
negotiations-immigration rights.
Fear of
Mexican
immigration
to the U.S. was invoked in the U.S.
by
both Demo-
crats
(the
Clinton administration
included)
and
Republicans
who resorted
to coded (and
at times
explicit)
racism in order to
justify
and denounce
NAFTA. In the media
coverage
of NAFTA debates
prior
to the
congres-
sional vote in November
1993,
free trade
proponents argued
that
export-
ing low-wage jobs
to Mexico would
keep
Mexicans from
"stealing"
U.S.
jobs,
while
protectionists simply
wanted to
dig
trenches and build walls to
keep
Mexicans out.66 From the
point
of view of Gomez-Peiia and the
Bordertown
writers,
culture and
immigration
are
closely related,
since the
flow of media and
people
is
largely responsible
for the diffusion of culture.
G6mez-Pefia's recent call for a "Free Art
Agreement"
seems to
challenge
the fact that cultural issues were
downplayed during
the NAFTA debates
and that cultural industries were
given cursory
mention in the
treaty
itself.
All of this has taken
place against
the
backdrop
of an
ongoing
drive
throughout
the continent to
privatize
cultural
industries,
which is bound
to have its most
profound
effects on smaller arts
organizations,
the
very
ones most
likely
to
promote
the work of
minority populations.
Claire F Fox 74
Theorizing
"the
Change":
NAFTA and the
Exportation
of Culture
While G6mez-Pefia and the Bordertown writers confront some of
NAFTA's black
holes, they
also have one feature in common with U.S.
media
coverage
of the
treaty.
All three
neglect
the fact that the deleterious
effects of economic
restructuring
will be felt in some
geographical
areas
more than in others. NAFTA is
only
a recent
step
in a
three-decade-long
process
toward economic
globalization.
It is difficult to forecast how
swiftly
or
severely
the effects of this
particular treaty
will be felt.
Many
activists who work on trade-related
issues, however,
view the
treaty
as the
mere standardization of
many already existing
trade
arrangements.
Among
North American
regions,
the U.S.-Mexico border so far has wit-
nessed the most drastic transformations as the result of North American
free trade. The
flight
of U.S. and
foreign
industries to Mexico in the wake
of the world financial crisis of the
early
1970s and Mexico's own financial
crisis in 1982 has
brought
to the border
region heightened
labor
abuses,
environmental
degradation,
and
shortages
of
housing, water, food,
and
medical care.
The uneven
development
fostered
by
free trade is marked within the
U.S.-Mexico "transfrontier
metropolises"
themselves. Social scientists
have for
years
insisted that from a cultural
perspective,
the border should
be viewed as a semi-autonomous social
system
because the twin cities
straddling
the border have more in common with one another than with
U.S. and Mexican cities of the interior.67 But the industrialization of the
border
through
the
maquiladora program
has made the cities
extremely
heterogeneous economically
even as it has increased binational ties. This
heterogeneity,
in
turn,
has
given
rise to artistic and
literary production
concomitant with the boom in industrial
parks.68
In most border
cities,
however,
institutional
support
for local artists and writers remains
very
modest.
Although
border art is
produced
under much more comfortable con-
ditions than TVs and other consumer
products are,
it too is
subject
to
exportation,
as G6mez-Peiia asserted when he
repudiated
the
genre.
When an "art of
place"
finds itself decontextualized and distributed for
mass
consumption
on a national or international
level,
it becomes all the
more
important
to differentiate between two borderized cities like Mata-
moros and New York; often the distinction not
only
is
spatial
and national
but also divides
production
from
consumption
and distribution. The
glob-
alized border of
postmodern
theorists misses the
specificity
of
regions
such as the U.S.-Mexico
border,
where nation-states continue to enforce
differences within urban
space.
The border as
global metaphor
of
oppo-
sitional discourse to NAFTA also falls
prey
to facile
appropriation by
an
The Portable Border 75
equally globalizing
U.S. nationalist
expansionism.
A recent headline in
the New York
Times, proclaiming
northern Mexico to be "America's
Newest Industrial Belt" and
referring
to Mexico as "the 51st State" in
terms of the U.S.
economy,
illustrates how
easily
the border can be assim-
ilated
by
U.S. industrial interests. There still is a border between "us"
and
"them," according
to the
logic
of the Times
article;
it has
simply
been
displaced
southward.69
Seemingly
in defiance of the
way
that their own works
collapse
this
distinction between
production
and
consumption,
the Bordertown writers
and Gomez-Peiia
continually
denounce the
process
of cultural
appropri-
ation. Another
part
of the Year
of
the White Bear
project
was the well-
known "Two Undiscovered Amerindians Visit .. ."
performance,
in which
Gomez-Pefia and
Fusco,
from inside a
ten-by-twelve-foot cage, presented
themselves as
indigenous
inhabitants of an island in the Gulf of Mexico.
The idea for the
piece
was based on the colonial
practice
of
exporting
Native
Americans, Asians,
and Africans to
Europe
for "aesthetic contem-
plation,
scientific
analysis
and entertainment."70 Fusco and G6mez-Pefia
exhibited themselves in
public
areas in
Europe,
North
America,
and Aus-
tralia,
where
many spectators
mistook them for "authentic"
natives,
in
spite
of their eclectic costumes and
props
such as a
laptop computer.71
Fusco and Paula Heredia
subsequently produced
a video about this
interactive
performance,
entitled The
Couple
in the
Cage:
A Guatinaui
Odyssey,
in which
they
recorded the reactions of
many unsuspecting
view-
ers,
who did not realize that what
they
were
witnessing
was a
perfor-
mance. This Eurocentric
way
of
perceiving
"native"
populations
is
by
no
means obsolete
along
the U.S.-Mexico
border,
and those who commit
offenses are not individual
spectators
but
nationally
and
internationally
recognized
cultural institutions. I was a research fellow at the Center for
InterAmerican and Border Studies in El Paso in
1992-93,
when
repre-
sentatives from a
major
U.S. museum came to the
city
to find material for
a border art exhibition. One of their ideas was to
export
a
group
of cholos
to the exhibition site to
paint
a mural. Another was to
ship
a
group
of
maquiladora
workers to the exhibition for the
purpose
of
displaying
them
in a
maquiladora
set. But the mere aestheticization of the
maquiladora
and
the colonia begs
the
question
of what
possibilities
for
productive
interac-
tion could
possibly
arise from such an encounter between these U.S.
spec-
tators and Mexican
"performers."
In the summer of
1991,
a labor
group
called the Tri-National Com-
mission for
Justice
in the
Maquiladoras (TCJM) staged
a similar "exhibi-
tion" of
maquiladora
workers at a conference on NAFTA held in Kansas
City.72 But in this
case,
the
maquiladora
workers were also active
partici-
pants
in the
conference; furthermore,
Canadian and U.S. workers illus-
Claire F. Fox
trated their
working
conditions for the Mexican
workers,
and all three
national
groups
were united in the cause of
changing
the
system
under
which
they
lived. For this
group,
visual
spectacle
and cultural under-
standing
were not ends in themselves.
Rather, they
were communication
strategies
to
mutually
achieve a
greater
level of social and economic
equality.
Locally
based art movements linked to activist
agendas,
as
exempli-
fied
by BAW/TAF
and the collaborations of Louis
Hock,
Deborah
Small,
Elizabeth
Sisco,
and David
Avalos,
are still
relatively
rare on the U.S.-
Mexico
border; meanwhile,
border art flourishes in national arts media.73
One cannot see this
phenomenon
in terms of a
simplistic opposition
of
site-specificity
to mass
media,
as
though
incursions into mass media
immediately signified inauthenticity
and
co-optation. Indeed, many grass-
roots
organizations currently engaged
in cross-border
organizing employ
communication
strategies
similar to those used on a smaller scale
by
Gomez-Pefia and the Bordertown
writers, including video, fax,
and e-
mail.74 In contrast to
professional artists, however,
the
grassroots organi-
zations do not
necessarily
isolate their
videos, installations,
and the like
from the rest of their
activities,
as "aesthetic" artifacts.
Perhaps, then,
the
emphasis
in
promoting
an art of
place
should be less on the formal or the-
matic
qualities
of a
given
work than on the
supposition
that
performers
and
spectators
alike are
potential
actors in a common social
struggle
once
the
performance
or exhibition is over.
Notes
I would like to thank
Dudley Andrew,
Charles
Hale,
Tom
Lewis,
Kathleen New-
man,
Chon
Noriega,
and Andrew Ross for their valuable
suggestions
as I was
writing
this
essay.
I would also like to
express my
thanks to Terri
Windling
and
Midori
Snyder
for the wealth of information that
they provided
to me about the
Bordertown series. Portions of this
essay
were delivered at the Sixteenth Annual
Whitney Symposium
on Art and
Culture,
New
York, May
1993.
1. Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia,
"The New World
(B)order," High Performance
15
(summer-fall 1992),
60.
2. Terri
Windling,
ed.,
Life
on the Border
(New
York:
Tor, 1991),
8.
3. Chon A.
Noriega,
"This Is Not a
Border," Spectator
13
(fall 1992),
6.
4.
See, e.g.,
Hector Calder6n and
Jose
David
Saldivar, eds.,
Criticism in the
Borderlands: Studies in Chicano
Literature, Culture,
and
Ideology (Durham,
N.C.:
Duke
University Press, 1991);
Gloria
Anzaldua, BorderlandslLa
Frontera: The
New Mestiza
(San
Francisco:
Spinsters/aunt lute, 1987).
5. The
following
is a
partial
list of recent
scholarly
work which features the
border
metaphor:
D.
Emily Hicks,
Border
Writing:
The Multidimensional Text
(Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota
Press, 1991);
lain
Chambers,
Border Dia-
logues: Journeys
in
Postmodernity (London: Routledge, 1990); Henry Giroux,
Bor-
The Portable Border 77
der
Crossings:
Cultural Workers and the Politics
of
Education
(New
York: Rout-
ledge, 1992);
Trinh T.
Minh-ha,
When the Moon Waxes Red:
Representation,
Gen-
der,
and Cultural Politics
(New
York:
Routledge, 1991); Maggie Humm,
Border
Traffic: Strategies of Contemporary
Women Writers
(New
York: St.
Martin's, 1991);
Renato
Rosaldo,
Culture and Truth: The
Remaking of
Social
Analysis (Boston:
Beacon, 1989).
The border
metaphor
also
appears
in semiotic and
poststruc-
turalist critical
theory.
See
Jacques Derrida, "Living
On: Border
Lines,"
trans.
James Hulbert,
in Deconstruction and
Criticism, by
Harold Bloom et al.
(New
York:
Seabury, 1979), 75-176; "The
Parergon,"
October 9
(summer 1979),
3-41.
See also Thomas G.
Pavel,
Fictional Worlds
(Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard Univer-
sity Press, 1986).
6.
E.g.,
Giroux writes: "In the
postmodern age,
the boundaries that once
held back
diversity, otherness,
and
difference,
whether in domestic ghettoes or
through
national borders
policed by
customs
officials,
have
begun
to break down.
The Eurocentric center can no
longer
absorb or contain the culture of the Other
as
something
that is
threatening
and
dangerous.
As Renato Rosaldo
points out,
'the Third World has
imploded
into the
metropolis.
Even the conservative
national
politics
of
containment, designed
to shield "us" from "them," betray
the
impossibility
of
maintaining hermetically
sealed cultures'"
(Border Crossings,
57-58).
7. Terri
Windling,
letter to the
author,
24
April
1992.
8. The area is also called "the
Border," "Borderland,"
and "Borderlands" in
these texts.
9. A shared-world
anthology
is one in which
parameters
for an alternative
universe are created
by
several authors who then
collectively
contribute stories to
the series. In the case of the Bordertown
group,
each author is associated with a
character or
group
of
characters,
but
they may
borrow other authors' characters
with
permission.
For a
general history
of shared-world
anthologies,
see Peter S.
Beagle,
"Authors in Search of a
Universe,"
Omni 10
(November 1987),
40-41.
10. This is an idea which I am
developing
in
my
doctoral dissertation. I
begin my study
of this
pattern
of
spectatorship
with the U.S. Punitive
Expedition
in Mexico
during
the Mexican Revolution.
11. The term is G6mez-Pefia's
neologism
for half
Chicano,
half
Chilango
(i.e.,
Mexico
City native).
12. The term
transfrontier metropolis
is used
by
Lawrence A.
Herzog,
Where
North Meets South:
Cities, Space,
and Politics on the US.-Mexico Border
(Austin:
Center for Mexican American
Studies, University
of
Texas, 1990).
See also
Lawrence A.
Herzog, ed., Planning
the International Border
Metropolis,
Mono-
graph
19
(La Jolla,
Calif.: Center for United States-Mexico
Studies, 1986).
13. BAW/TAF's
membership
varied from 1984 to
1989, although
a core of
founding
members remained. In 1989
many
new artists
joined
the
collective,
and
only
one
original
member
stayed.
G6mez-Pefia discusses the dissolution of the
group's
core in "A Binational Performance
Pilgrimage,"
Drama Review 35
(fall
1991), 39-40;
and "Death on the Border: A
Eulogy
to Border
Art," High Perfor-
mance
14,
no. 2
(spring 1991),
8-9.
14. Guillermo G6mez-Pefia and Jeff Kelley, eds., The Border Art
Workshop:
Documentation
of
Five Years
of Interdisciplinary
Art
Projects Dealing
with U.S.-
Mexico Border
Issues,
1984-1989
(New York;
La
Jolla,
Calif.: Artists
Space
Museum of
Contemporary Art, 1989),
20.
15. Ibid., 18-19.
16.
G6mez-Pefia,
"Binational Performance
Pilgrimage,"
27-32.
Claire F. Fox 78
17. Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia, "Documented/Undocumented,"
in The
Gray-
wolf Annual Five: Multi-Cultural
Literacy,
ed. Rick Simonson and Scott Walker
(St. Paul,
Minn.:
Graywolf, 1988),
130.
18. Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia,
"The Multicultural
Paradigm:
An
Open
Letter
to the National Arts
Community," High Performance
12
(fall 1989),
21.
19. Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia,
"From
Art-mageddon
to
Gringostroika," High
Performance
14
(fall 1991),
21.
20. See note 13. BAW/TAF
responded
to G6mez-Pefia in "Errata Historica"
(Unpublished manuscript,
December
1991). Recently,
David
Avalos,
founder of
BAW/TAF,
published
his own recollection of the
early
BAW/TAF years,
in which
he
responded
to
many
of G6mez-Pefia's claims about the demise of border art:
"A
Wag Dogging
a
Tale/Un
meneo
perreando
una
cola,"
in La
Frontera/The
Bor-
der: Art about the Mexico-United States Border
Experience (San Diego:
Centro
Cultural de la
Raza, 1993),
52-93.
21. For more
background
on the
production
of Border
Brujo,
see G6mez-
Pefia,
"Binational Performance
Pilgrimage," 40-42; Jason Weiss,
"An Interview
with Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia,"
Review: Latin American Literature and Arts 45
(July-December 1991),
8-13.
22. Other
examples
include Border Realities
(1986),
I Couldn't Reveal
My
Identity (1988),
and Backyard to
Backyard (1988).
23. The character of Border
Brujo
was "born" at a
BAW/TAF
installation
entitled "Casa de Cambio." See Shifra Goldman's review
essay
of the installation
in G6mez-Pefia and
Kelley,
Border Art
Workshop,
8-9.
24.
G6mez-Peiia,
"Binational Performance
Pilgrimage,"
49-66; Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia,
"Border
Brujo,"
in
Being
America:
Essays
on
Art, Literature,
and
Identity from
Latin
America,
ed. Rachel
Weiss,
with Alan West
(Fredonia,
N.Y.:
White
Pine, 1991), 194-236;
Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia,
"Border
Brujo,"
in War-
rior
for Gringostroika: Essays, Performance Texts,
and
Poetry (St. Paul,
Minn.:
Graywolf, 1993),
75-95. The
script
was often modified in
performance.
25. For
example,
he has deleted the voice of a member of the Latin Ameri-
can
oligarchy,
a Central American war
victim,
and
many
of the transvestite's
lines. He has also left out a
part
about affirmative action and the
critique
of Chi-
cano nationalism and radicalism at the end of the
piece,
which
greatly changes
the tone of the
ending.
26. I am
grateful
to Chon
Noriega
for
providing background
information
about Son of Border Crisis.
27. G6mez-Pefia
subsequently
relocated to Los
Angeles
in 1993.
28.
G6mez-Pefia,
"Death on the
Border,"
9.
29. Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia,
"The New World Border:
Prophecies
for the
End of the
Century,"
Drama Review 38
(spring 1994),
119-42. The
quotes
from
The New World
(B)order
which
appear
in this
essay
are taken from the
High
Per-
formance essay,
with the
understanding
that the live version has varied
greatly
from
performance
to
performance.
30.
Weiss,
"Interview with Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia,"
11.
31.
G6mez-Pefia,
"New World Border:
Prophecies,"
120.
32. Kim
Sawchuck, "Unleashing
the Demons of
History,"
Parachute 67
(July-September 1992),
29.
33. Defined
by
G6mez-Pefia as "a continental
grass
roots movement that
advocates the
complete
economic and cultural reform of U.S.
capitalism" ("New
World
(B)order," 65).
34. A
play
on Zona de Libre Comercio.
Coger
means "to screw" in Mexico.
The Portable Border 79
35.
G6mez-Pefia,
"New World
(B)order,"
60.
36.
Ibid.,
61.
37.
Ibid.,
63.
38.
Ibid.,
64.
39.
Weiss,
"Interview with Guillermo G6mez-Peia," 11; see also G6mez-
Pefia,
"New World
(B)order,"
63.
40.
G6mez-Pefia, "Art-mageddon,"
24.
41. Ibid.
42.
G6mez-Pefia,
"Binational Performance
Pilgrimage,"
43; Weiss,
"Inter-
view with Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia,"
10.
43.
Giroux,
Border
Crossings,
224.
44. On the
importance
of
"dialogue"
with
"Others,"
see
Chambers,
Border
Dialogues, 50, 76, 104-5; Giroux,
Border
Crossings,
28-35. On
reading
and writ-
ing
as border
crossing,
see
Hicks,
"Introduction: Border
Writing
as Deterritori-
alization,"
in Border
Writing,
xxiii-xxxi. See also
G6mez-Pefia,
"Multicultural
Paradigm," 21;
and his
quote
of Carlos Fuentes in "Binational Performance Pil-
grimage,"
44.
45. Grant
Kester,
"Rhetorical
Questions:
The Alternative Arts Sector and
the
Imaginary Public," Afterimage 20,
no. 6
(January 1993),
13.
46.
Roger Rouse,
"Mexican
Migration
in the Social
Space
of Postmod-
ernism," Diaspora
1
(spring 1991),
8-23.
47.
G6mez-Pefia,
"Multicultural
Paradigm,"
27.
48. In an ironic reversal of G6mez-Pefia's
trajectory,
series creator Terri
Windling recently
relocated to
Tucson, Arizona,
and she told me that the newest
anthology
in the series
may
include elements that reflect her
proximity
to the
U.S.-Mexico border. Midori
Snyder
and
Windling suggested
that SoHo was
modeled on
squatters' neighborhoods
in New
York,
Los
Angeles, Boston,
Ams-
terdam,
and London. See
Snyder,
interview with the
author,
30 March
1993;
Windling,
letter to the
author,
26 March
1993; Windling,
interview with the
author,
28
April
1993.
49. Bordertown is not the
only example
of an alternative universe set on "the
border." Several
popular role-playing games
such as
Rifts
and Shadowrun
explic-
itly develop
a
postapocalyptic
U.S.-Mexico border
region, although they
adhere
more
closely
to traditional
representations
of the border: a war zone without the
"multicultural" alternative.
50.
Snyder,
interview with the
author,
30 March
1993; Windling,
letter to
the
author,
26 March 1993.
51. I am
referring
to statements such as "'He's
got
a lot of
anger,' Mickey
said. 'It isn't
easy growing up
a halfie in Bordertown"'
(Will Shetterly,
Elsewhere
[New
York:
Tor, 1991], 134).
52. Bordertown elves are differentiated from Elfland elves
by
their accent or
by
social class. In
Bordertown,
class and race are not
always
coterminous. For
example,
lower-class elves
may dye
their hair so that
they
can look more human.
And Bordertown has its own
upper-class neighborhood, Dragon's
Tooth
Hill,
which is divided into elf and human sides.
53. SoHo is
literally
"South of Ho Street."
54. Each writer in the Bordertown series has his or her own
opinion
on the
matter. Terri
Windling says
that the
interdependence
between elves and
humans,
which we see on a cultural
level, may
be
grounded
in
something
as basic as the
elves' need for "raw materials"
(interview
with the
author,
28
April 1993).
55.
Shetterly, Elsewhere,
229.
Claire F Fox 80
56. In the
published script,
this
part
continues:
GP and CF:
(Horny
and
agitated)
The
crossing
from the Third to the
First
World;
from the
past
to the
future,
remember?
El
cruce,
el
bordo,
el
abismo,
el
sismo,
la
migra,
the
spiderweb,
the TV cam-
eras, my
old
performances, your
oldest
prejudices,
the
original migration,
your great mojado grandparents.
Remember?
(Blackout.)
(G6mez-Pefia,
"New World Border:
Prophecies," 138).
57.
G6mez-Pefia,
"New World
(B)order,"
64.
58.
Snyder,
interview with the
author,
30 March 1993.
59. G6mez-Pefia continues to
express
faith in
young
and newcomer artists in
his recent work: "The
teenagers
have tremendous
things
to teach
us; they
have
fewer
hang-ups
about race and
gender, they
are much more at ease with crisis
and
hybridity,
and
they
understand our cities and
neighborhoods
better than we
do. In
fact,
if there is an art form that
truly speaks
for the
present
crisis of our
communities,
this form is
rap" ("The
Free Art
Agreement/El
Tratado de Libre
Cultura," High Performance 16,
no. 3
[fall 1993], 63).
60. The most
"technologically
advanced" artifacts in Bordertown are
aging
"pre-Change"
videocassette
decks,
most of which no
longer
work because
they
are too close to Faerie's
magic.
G6mez-Pefia has
always
combined
popular
mass-
produced
icons from U.S. culture
(Mickey Mouse,
boom
boxes, etc.)
with hand-
made "folk" icons from Mexican culture
(e.g.,
Dia de los Muertos
calaveras),
as
he does in Border
Brujo.
He has also commented on the need to
distinguish
between
popular
culture and mass culture for U.S. and Mexican contexts. In the
U.S.,
he
argues,
there is a
superimposition
of folklore and
technology, given
that
popular
culture
usually
refers to commodities such as video
games
and
Holly-
wood
movies,
which have their
origin
in the
U.S.,
while
indigenous
and ethnic
cultures are either
co-opted
or invisible to the mainstream.
Mexico,
he
cautions,
is
moving
in the same direction
through
the creation of
large
media
conglomer-
ates such as Televisa
(Marco
Vinicio
Gonzalez,
"Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia,"
Sem-
anal de La
Jornada
117
[8 September 1991], 20).
In The New World
(B)order,
his
descriptions
of
technology
are
perhaps
more
prominent; however, they
are still
dystopian (e.g.,
the
giant
media
conglomerate
Reali-TV and robo-raza I's
technophilia).
61.
Weiss,
"Interview with Guillermo
G6mez-Pefia,"
12.
62.
Speaking
of the U.S. Latino arts
community,
G6mez-Pefia wrote: "We
come from a culture which doesn't venerate
irreflexively
the
principle
of
newness,
or better
said,
a culture which considers that an
apolitical
reverence for
original-
ity
carries
dangerous ideological implications.
What we consider
'avant-garde'
or
'original' generally
deals with extra-artistic concerns and
precisely
because of
this,
it never seems
'experimental enough'
for the art world"
(G6mez-Pefia
and
Kelley,
Border Art
Workshop, 57).
See also his
piece
in
Lilly Wei,
"On
Nationality:
Thirteen
Artists,"
Art in America 79
(September 1991),
159.
63. Terri
Windling
and Mark Alan
Arnold, eds., Borderland
(New
York:
Tor,
1992),
vii. The first edition of this collection
appeared
in 1986. The "wild elves"
depicted
in the series still have an aversion to iron.
64. Bordertown does have a
police force,
called the Silver
Suits,
but
they
have little
jurisdiction
in SoHo and are
portrayed
as ineffectual. In the New
World
(B)order,
"the role of the
presidents
is now restricted to
public
relations
and the role of the
military
has been reduced to
guarding banks,
TV stations and
art schools"
(G6mez-Pefia,
"New World
[B]order," 60).
65.
Douglas
Kellner and Michael
Ryan,
for
example, argued
that
technology
The Portable Border 81
was
opposed
to
"family values,"
human
intimacy,
and the
private sphere
in sev-
eral
Reagan-Bush-era
science fiction film
productions ("Technophobia,"
in Alien
Zone: Cultural
Theory
and
Contemporary
Science Fiction
Cinema,
ed. Annette
Kuhn
[London: Verso, 1990], 58-65).
Charles
Ramirez-Berg pointed
out in his
study
of aliens and
Hispanic imagery
that films like The Terminator envisioned a
confrontation between an embattled human race and
superhuman technology-
the
corollary being
that
only
a
eugenics
in the
present,
which would eliminate
"the weaker
races,"
can create a
humanity
fit for survival
("Immigrants, Aliens,
and Extraterrestrials: Science Fiction's Alien 'Other' as
[among
Other
Things]
New
Hispanic Imagery,"
CineAction! 18
[fall 1989], 3-17).
66. The 1992 U.S. elections witnessed a
very strange spectrum
of
positions
on
NAFTA,
which did not
neatly correspond
to
party
lines. The extreme
right
wing
of the
Republican Party,
such as Pat Buchanan and David Duke (one advo-
cated
building
a
great
wall between the U.S. and
Mexico,
and the other
partici-
pated
in a
"Light Up
the Border"
vigilante photo-op),
shared the
protectionist
camp
with Ross Perot and "Rust Belt" and
pro-labor Democrats,
while the cen-
ter-left and
-right
of the two
major parties
tended to be
pro-NAFTA.
For an
excellent overview of the U.S.
political parties'
stances on free
trade,
written
from a liberal
pro-NAFTA position,
see Alan K.
Henrikson,
"A North American
Community:
'From the Yukon to the
Yucatan,"'
in The
Diplomatic Record,
1991-1992,
ed. Hans
Binnendijk
and
Mary
Locke
(Boulder,
Colo.:
Westview,
1993),
70-95.
67. Robert A. Pastor and
Jorge
G.
Castafieda,
"The
Border,"
in Limits to
Friendship:
The United States and Mexico
(New
York:
Vintage, 1989),
283-313.
68. San
Diego-Tijuana
in
particular
has seen a rise in artistic
production,
which
may
be due to several factors. Buffered
by poorer
cities like San
Ysidro,
San
Diego
is
wealthy
in
comparison
to other U.S. border
cities,
which
gives
it a
relatively large art-consuming public. Secondly,
the
city
has a
history
of militant
Chicano art movements
dating
from the late 1960s.
Finally,
both San
Diego
and
Tijuana
have universities with
strong
arts and humanities
emphases.
For an
overview of the San
Diego
visual art
scene,
see David
Joselit, "Report
from San
Diego,"
Art in America 77
(December 1989),
120-35.
69. Louis
Uchitelle,
"America's Newest Industrial
Belt,"
New York
Times,
21
March
1993,
late
ed.,
sec.
3,
1.
70.
Sawchuck, "Unleashing
the Demons of
History,"
27.
71.
Ibid.,
22. Coco Fusco also wrote an
essay
in which she
vividly
described
her
experiences
while
performing
the
piece
at different
venues,
as well as the crit-
ical
reception
of the
project ("The
Other
History
of Intercultural Performance"
Drama Review 38
[spring 1994], 143-67).
72.
Jack Hedrick,
UAW Local 249 and
TCJM, telephone interview, July
1992. The set in this case included a
maquiladora
and a
colonia, complete
with
drums of
spilled
"toxic waste."
73. As this
essay
was
going
to
press
in fall
1994,
in SITE94 a
large-scale
exhibition of
site-specific
art was
being planned by
San
Diego's
Installation
Gallery.
Works
by
local artists were to be installed in
public places
around the
San
Diego-Tijuana metropolitan
area.
74.
Many
of those
organizations
are listed in Ricardo Hernandez and Edith
Sanchez, eds.,
Cross-Border Links
(Albuquerque,
N. Mex.:
Inter-Hemispheric
Education Resource
Center, 1992).
Claire F Fox 82