Exhibit At Oceanside Museum Of Art Focuses On Border Issues
This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Many Southern California museums taking part in an exam it -- exhibit at the Oceanside Museum will concentrate on the border between California and Mexico. That group of art and artwork is called undocumented. Joining me is the curator, Alessandro Martizumo. welcome. Alessandro, what made you focus on border art and border issues?I have been a curator here for 15 years and also as an artist I have studied the important border art movement here in the region. Going back to the 80s and 90s, other groups of artists, collectives, and individuals were focusing on issues of border immigration and the identity of being Mexican and American. This has been of interest to me. I felt there were not enough exhibitions offered in PST that cover that very important topic that affects us here every day.You have several performance art pieces, why did you make that choice?I wanted to work with artists that create out in the public realm and use performance to bring attention to different issues. I think it is very important when you are dealing with the topics of immigration, labor, the border that the artist engage so that they can provide a counter narrative to some of the stereotypes that we hear, especially since the recent election.Tell us about one of the performance pieces?One of the artist, she has created an alter ego. Her alter ego is Rosa Hernandez, a cleaning lady. She dresses in uniform and she sets herself up in public spaces like the border wall or La Jolla Shores or the Oceanside peer -- pier and she perceives the claim the spaces. The action is absurd, you know, you are cleaning the pier. Also her attire calls attention to the fact that she is a worker. I was interested in that interaction of her in this public arena and people realizing the contribution of emigrants who are kind of the invisible part of our economy. She brings to light the important work they do by bringing in the absurd into her performance.Omar, one of your pieces about passports is participatory. Tell me about that.I set up a consulate in museums and galleries and I pretty much exchange passports. I created a passport of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tijuana. It is called freedom. I grew up there. It was ironic to have a wall limiting this free neighborhood. That involved a into creating or the making of that space and granting citizenship. It is also a really famous neighborhood because it used to be the place of transit or illegal immigrants up until gatekeeper. That idea pretty much gave me the, I don't know, the attitude to create a passport that I exchange.So people bring you there expired passports and they get a new passport? That is -- what is the response?It has been complicated on this side of the border because people are afraid. Most of the participants up until this point are willing to participate and most of them are friends. It is a lot of trust. They are giving up the document to me and I pretty much assured them this is going to be shown only and galleries. It will never be sold or anything. People coming into the show not knowing about the project in itself, they start asking questions. Some participate and some do not. The whole idea is for people to question maybe the absurdity of bureaucratic processes or how the nations are within themselves conceptual projects. Like who gives you the right to fill up a document and that makes you a citizen of one specific space and I believe the piece works with that pretty well. People do question how absurd our citizenship process could be, but how dangerous it is many times if you don't have it.Omar, your Lady liberty piece also garnered a lot of attention. Can you describe it?It is a plaster figure, it is a replica of a sketch by the French creator of the Statue of Liberty. He sketched out a pedestal for his colossal statue. The pedestal is inspired by a pre-Columbian pyramid. I appropriated the sketch and made some replica on plaster, which is one of the main materials that the people utilized to create souvenirs. The idea is this new way or this new path of migration in relation to obviously the early or late 1900s could be here in California. This is a new path and I was trying to trigger the sense that these two cultures merged right there. That sketch symbolized so much. Back then it felt ironic or maybe even weird to imagine the Statue of Liberty being a top of a pre-Columbian pyramid.Although you plan this exhibition over two years ago it is particularly timely right now. You talk a little bit about the fact that we have a new president and you are hoping this exhibit starts a counter narrative? What counter narrative is that?When I plan this exhibition we were looking more at building a relationship to Mexico and the countries south of us. It has been a very close relationship between the two countries. Labor shortages here were often solved by bringing in Mexican immigrants. Rather World War II or here with farmworkers that are brought here. There is also the issue of the wall. We have militarize the wall, but there is an argument of trying to build bridges rather than building walls. So, this exhibition has become maybe even more utopian or idealistic now that the current president, one of his main goals was to expand the wall. And also the other thing is it is titled undocumented because it points us to the plight of the undocumented, people who sacrifice everything to cross the border. I also want this exhibit to show migrants as human beings and the arches that are touching upon them as people contributing to our society as opposed to the criminalization of migrants or of Mexicans or the idea of banning people from coming. I think it is so counterintuitive to the concept of the symbol of the Statue of Liberty. This was supposed to be a welcoming country. A lot of the elements in this exhibit are becoming on artistic barricade against some of the policies that are being promoted right now.The exhibit will run at the Oceanside Museum of Art in January. I have been speaking with the curator and participating artist Omar Pimenta. Thank you both.Thank you so much.
UnDocumenta, an exhibit at the Oceanside Museum of Art, is focused on border art and border issues.
It is part of the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, which aims to display Latin American and Latino art across Southern California.
President Trump has put a spotlight on the issue of immigration. Alessandra Moctezuma, the curator of the exhibit, said she hopes the exhibit creates a counter narrative.
"I was trying to counter this argument about building walls, and also the other thing is it's titled UnDocumenta because it points us to the plight of the undocumented, people who sacrifice everything to cross the border," Moctezuma said. "I also want this exhibit to show migrants as human beings and ... as people who are contributing to our society, as opposed to the criminalization of migrants, or of Mexicans or the idea of banning people from coming."
Moctezuma aimed to include in the exhibit artists who bring their art outside of museums and galleries.
One such artist is Claudia Cano who created the alter ego of Rosa Hernandez, a cleaning lady who cleans public spaces, such as the Oceanside Pier or the area near the border wall.
"I was interested in that interaction of her in this public arena and people realizing the contribution of immigrants who are kind of an invisible part of our economy," Moctezuma said.
As part of the exhibit, artist Omar Pimienta sets up a consulate in the museum and gives participants a passport to his community in Tijuana in exchange for their expired passport.
"The whole idea is for people to question maybe the absurdity of bureaucratic processes or how nations are in themselves conceptual projects," Pimienta said.
UnDocumenta runs through January at the Oceanside Museum of Art.