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Chapter 3 Re-Inscribing the Border Only after understanding the developments of the 1980s and early 1990s can we take a closer look at Javier Téllez’s 2005 One Flew over the Void. Recall figure 0.1 from the introduction, which documents a performance grounded in its site, long after Gómez-Peña declared the border to be portable. The site is once again Imperial Beach, the location of the BAW/TAF’s End of the Line almost twenty years earlier. If the border truly had become portable in anticipation of the globalizing events of the early 1990s, why then did Téllez choose to locate his performance directly on the border? The answer is not a straightforward one. While the border had indeed become portable for some artists, others (such as David Avalos) redoubled their insistence upon site-specificity. The international stature of those who moved beyond site-specificity—including BAW/TAF members and Gómez-Peña—focused the attention of the art world on the possibilities of the border region. The rhetoric of multiculturalism proved not only powerful, but also extremely lucrative. Even artists working in other areas shifted their attention to issues of postcolonialism, multiculturalism, and U.S. imperialism. Chicana artist Nao Bustamante mocked this situation in her 1992 Indig/urrito. In this performance, she announced to the audience that only art that addressed postcolonialism and imperialism was being funded in that Quincentennial year. Her response, therefore, was to strap a burrito to her crotch and encourage white male audience members to come to the stage and take a bite. Within this climate of international focus on the U.S.-Mexico border , San Diego arts organizations founded InSite. Originally conceived as a local arts festival, InSite began in 1992 by bringing internationally recognized artists from around the world to the San Diego–Tijuana region, instructing them to find inspiration in the local. InSite’s insistence upon Sheren pages.indd 90 4/21/15 3:22 PM Re-Inscribing the Border | 91 the physicality of site reached a peak in the early twenty-first century with its largest festivals in 2000–2001 and 2005. In the introduction to this book, I described the paradoxical situation of late twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century borders. This situation , not limited to the U.S.-Mexico border, is predicated on the “push and pull” of the border in opposing directions. As the border becomes more metaphorical, more open and more porous than ever, nationalist and economic forces have been at work to maintain the separation. The paradox can be attributed to a variety of factors, including the ease of global communication and transit coupled with the economic disparity between the United States and Mexico. The demographic shifts in the U.S. interior, leading to the “borderization of other urban centers” heralded by GómezPe ña, and the rising tide of fear related to that “borderization” were also significant. The U.S.-Mexico border is constantly viewed as being under attack, regardless of which side of the debate one supports. Border dwellers , especially in the Mexican cities of Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, have seen their daily lives altered by the rule of cartels and organized crime. Anglo-Americans, fearing the Latin American “invasion,” perceive waves of undocumented and illegal immigration threatening the security of U.S. labor. It would follow then that with the push toward border-as-metaphor would come a corresponding pull toward the physicality of site. Accordingly, even though the border became portable in the eyes of some, its metaphorical quality allowing for transmission of ideas to other regions, conditions “on the ground” necessitated a continued insistence upon the physical nature of the border. I would argue that InSite’s strategy of focusing the world’s attention on a specific site is not fundamentally opposed to the portable or mental border. Instead, the organization worked to open the region and its art production to outsiders, reinforcing the notion that anyone can be a border thinker, border dweller, or border subject. In this way, the production of InSite was fundamentally different from the BAW/TAF’s early insistence upon the primacy of site. The festival’s focus on publicity-grabbing performances and stunts, as well as on the importation of well-known artists from beyond the border region, managed to bring attention to the area, solidifying the category of “border art” for both the mainstream media and the general public. Although InSite rapidly became the...


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