Magazine article Artforum International

InSite_05: Various Venues, San Diego and Tijuana

Magazine article Artforum International

InSite_05: Various Venues, San Diego and Tijuana

Article excerpt

When first appearing in 1992, inSite--a biennial artistic event that engages the border area between San Diego and Tijuana through a series of specially commissioned and site-specific works and exhibitions--caused barely a ripple, being underreported and underdiscussed. But within two short years it had the support of the Centro Cultural Tijuana (CeCuT) and has steadily gained in funding and prestige with each subsequent installment. While the sprawling nature of the project has necessarily made for patchy affairs on Occasion, inSite has also delivered such memorable moments as the Trojan horse sculpture by Marcos Ramirez (aka ERRE) positioned beside the cabins of border guards in 1997, and Krzysztof Wodiczko's projection of a staring, Big Brother-like head on the exterior of Tijuana's Omnimax Dome theater in 2001.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Speaking more broadly, one must acknowledge inSite's instrumental role during the past decade in demarginalizing "border aesthetics" as a category within artistic discourse. We have seen its consolidation in Documenta11 and the last two Venice Biennales, and also in the "tropical modernist" sensibility that is increasingly prevalent in US architecture. All evidence a growing fascination with third-world takes on first-world culture, or with a process of exchange that upsets this global hierarchy. To a great extent, this has always been part of inSite's mission, not only "to broaden the scope of international cultural activities that allow Mexico to take part in dialogue through art practice with the rest of the world," as CeCuT director Teresa Vicencio Alvarez puts it, but to begin tipping the scales in turn.

Of course, in a post-NAFTA era, the nature of the border itself has changed. While inSite still fosters an exchange between North and South America, it must now contend with such cultural developments as the defensive mobilization of NIMBYish neighborhood-watch groups into large-scale nationalistic militias patrolling the American side of the border. On the one hand, such a politically charged context creates a real problem for curators when it becomes an unavoidable, potentially limiting imperative to relevance: Art must engage tensions directly or else face charges of cynical detachment. On the other hand, these circumstances put inSite in a newly resonant critical position among so many international biennials that fail to reflect on the socioeconomic infrastructure of their immediate surroundings. In effect, this fifth manifestation of inSite greatly benefits from the fact that an increasing number of contemporary artists around the world are concerned with a "dialectic of inside and outside," as Gaston Bachelard puts it, that explicitly acknowledges the personal impact of economic expansion (as well as its periodic social contractions). Consequently, developments on both sides of the American-Mexican border offer a fulcrum for a larger system of tense relations among global cultures. One is reminded that this particular border provided that ideal setting for Orson Welles's Touch of Evil, a 1958 film that similarly aims to tell an international story in local terms: It is the contiguity of two communities here, their intimate apartness, that affords a uniquely sharp perspective on social dynamics that elsewhere are often overlaid, cluttered, buried.

Accordingly, inSite_05 organizers substantially expanded the usual program of newly commissioned public works and performances, collectively dubbed "Interventions," which here runs a gamut from Thomas Glassford and Jose Parral's relatively straightforward, civically minded landscaping of a stretch of choice beachfront land (La esquina/Jardines de playas de Tijuana [The Corner/Gardens on the Beaches of Tijuana]) to Javier Tellez's broadly satirical depiction of the border jumper as a human cannonball (One Flew Over the Void [Bala perdida]). A standout was the live, achingly poetic recital that Althea Thauberger coaxed from a choir of soldiers' wives left behind at a local army base (Murphy Canyon Choir). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.