The US-Mexico border, like most borders, is mostly conceptual: a space more often imagined than physically there. The artists that comprise Postcommodity are indigenous to lands that used to belong to Mexico, and to many peoples before that—Raven Chacon, from Fort Defiance, Arizona, raised on a Navajo reservation; Kade L. Twist, a Cherokee raised in Bakersfield, California; and Cristóbal Martínez, a Mestizo born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In two recent works, Postcommodity explores the border as a poetic complex, a militarized marketplace of state and non-state activity—a place to administer and to trespass.
Rob Goyanes How was A Very Long Line filmed?
Raven Chacon About two or three years in advance of our large installation Repellant Fence (2015), we were scouting all over borderlands from the westernmost part of Arizona to where it turns into New Mexico, finding different communities, going to the Tohono O’odham reservation, bird sanctuaries, BLM [Bureau of Land Management] areas, and private lands. We eventually ended up doing that work in Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Sonora—though more on the US side because we didn’t know what permissions were needed for Mexico. There are cartels and a lot of different things happening down there.
Anyway, we drove on International Avenue, which is a dirt road that runs alongside the US-Mexico border. It’s for maintenance access for the fence, but also for border patrol to get around quickly so as to swarm anybody breaching the border. Every time we went down there, we would be swarmed upon and have to explain what we were doing—which was just driving along very slowly, looking at the landscape. That’s when we noticed how amazing it is to see all this fencing strobe past. So, we stuck a steadicam unit out the window and captured this for thirty miles.
Kade L. Twist That was a study, then we went back and shot again off the hood of the car with a 50mm lens, trying to create that 1:1 ratio of human sight.
Cristóbal Martínez We also saw the fence itself as a marketplace for construction companies and contractors. In our piece there are three distinct designs documented, which shows some of their logic at work, how the theater of the fence is being articulated. It maybe also speaks to the bidding that goes into earning these contracts. In urban spaces you have higher, twenty-foot iron fencing with slabs. In more rural spaces you have “Normandy-style” barriers or pylons sticking out of the ground, some of which are cruciform in shape. One really intense thing about this is that many of the fence contractors say, “We’re a Hispanic company.” They understand it might be a selling point for the administration. It’s all hugely rhetorical.
RG The video really shows how porous the border is at many points.
KT It’s not “the wall,” as advertised. The barriers are specifically for automobiles, made so animals can get across. With such designs there’s typically an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), but just about every federal policy was waived to build this stuff. Despite that, there was still some give-and-take and public proceedings. Tribes—primarily the Tohono O’odham—and other advocates demanded the pylon-style, since they didn’t want to disrupt the path of migratory animals. It’s an ongoing debate.
RG Which animals migrate there?
KT Deer, jaguar, javelina, coyotes. It’s dense with wildlife.
(published in BOMB Daily, 4/13/17)