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by coco fusco
Monday, Aug. 27, 2001 at 7:04 PM
Performance Artist Coco Fusco takes on border hacker boasts
Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2001 10:19:38 EDT
Dear Fran Ilich,
I realize from the nettime-latino list that you are currently receiving
heated emails from critics about your borderhack event and don't want to
give the impression that I just want to add fuel to the fire. However, for
a long while now, each time I read your postings, I am left wondering why
you present your borderhack endeavors as if there had never been an
organized attempt before yours to develop a critical/artistic approach to
the US-Mexico border. It may just be that you believe that using computers
makes everything different but the content of the work you present and the
content of your own essays read like re-runs of the manifestos of the
Border Arts Workshop in the 1980s.
They too wanted to bring the border down, explore the area as a zone of
intercultural exchange, point to human rights violations, and theorize a
border sensibility using the notion of the deterritorialized undocumented
Mexican as a trope. They brought the hybrid pop cultural forms of the
region into the spotlight, from norteño punk rock to Tijuanense detective
fiction, to Bart Simpson in sombreros and velvet paintings of Elvis. They
didn't work with computers so much, but they used radio, fax machines,
cheap printing processes, and connected with alternative information
distribution networks via the mail art circuit, an important precursor to
the current net.art arena.
They organized cultural events at the border, did performances across the
border fence, and in a metaphorical way, were "hacking" long before you
got there, and before any mainstream museum ever took interest in the
area. Scores of academics in both the US and Mexico started thinking
about the border as the starting point of hybridity because of the work
that BAWTAF has done, and because of the contributions of such writers and
artists as Guillermo Gomez-Peña, Gloria Anzaldua, Alurista and so on. In
addition, from the 1960s onward, Chicano artists were talking about a
territory without borders and making art about the region, laying a
groundwork for the sensibility you now claim as your own.
It is dismissive and even ignorant to describe all these efforts as
"cliched" approaches to the border - I honestly don't see that what you
propose as very different other than that you propose to transpose this
work into a virtual context. The other real difference I see is that you
want to draw a predominantly European and Euro-American net.art crowd from
nettime to TJ and link the US-Mexico border scene to the European art
scene -- now what would that do for the border and the people who live and
Still, it is historically inaccurate to suggest that artists first got
concerned about borders in Europe first during the last Documenta as you
have written -- artists have been working on the US-Mexico border for much
much longer than that. What does seem terribly odd is that it would appear
that you must erase the history of border culture in order to cast your
own venture as the starting point. Now why would that be necessary? Why
make net.art partake of that violent modernist tradition of having to
demolish everything in order to make one's own creativity seem original?
Why not bring all your peers and colleagues from a variety of disciplines
and histories into dialogue together to share border culture? Why turn
your back on the past and even on other artists working in the present
(BAW TAF still exists, for example) and only pay attention to one digerati
clique that too often mistakes itself for the only politicized avant garde
to have ever emerged in the history of the world?
Sincerely, Coco Fusco
(forwarded by DeeDee)
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