2021 - Team: Angela Crisostomo, Ingrid Leiva, Gabriel Vergara - El Paso + Ciudad Juarez - APEX Art Open Call Submission - 7th place
El Paso and Ciudad Juarez have one of the busiest pedestrian crossings along the US-Mexico border. The Santa Fe International Bridge both connects and divides the main commercial corridors of the two cities. Here, the daily act of crossing is a charged spatial experience marked by moments of tension rooted in the contested nature of the border.
Moments, events, and appropriations in the long history of this site have marked it as contested space. Early in the 20th century, El Paso Authorities used the excuse of a typhus pandemic in Mexico to establish the “Gasoline Baths” —a discriminatory US mandate, where Mexicans crossing over were required to strip naked and be disinfected with various toxic chemicals. In a courageous act of resistance, Carmelita Torres, a transborder citizen, refused to be subjected to the humiliating process of “sanitization” and prompted the Bath Riots of 1917. This unexpected event temporarily transformed the bridge into a space of protest and civic action.
While the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have imposed new regulations on border crossings, such as limiting non-essential travelers, cues on the bridge remain largely unchanged. Daily life at the border continues, having adapted to a new normal. Ingrained in the daily life of many, the act of crossing the Santa Fe International Bridge marks nuances in the urban and cultural experience of life on either side. Here, binary contrasts of formality and informality, permanence and impermanence, give way to fuzzier and more porous notions of citizenship, boundaries, edges, and middle grounds. Inside interpretations of these conditions can be utilized to create dialogue around transborder identities and citizenships.
TransBorder is set upon the legacy of the Bath Riots—engaging the Santa Fe International Bridge as an exhibition space to redefine the notion of transnational citizenship. The outdoor exhibition will highlight women artists working on transnational issues along the US-Mexico border and question the notion of a militarized and highly regulated border’s role as active civic space. By mounting a month-long bi-national art exhibition, the project challenges existing border dynamics and historical narratives of nativism and separation through regional cooperation between artists, community organizations, and the cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.
El Paso and Ciudad Juarez have a history of cooperation and exchange. In the months leading up to the exhibition, the curators will work with authorities to secure permissions to mount the exhibition along the Santa Fe Bridge. Artists will be encouraged to work and engage with local transborder actors to create or appropriate their works on provided sites along the bridge. Taking advantage of the existing structures, artists will be asked to interpret their notions of transborder citizenship and work within the boundaries of what is possible in this highly contested space.