A site is not only its physical characteristics, but its subjective associations as well. Nowhere within the domain of InSITE are these associations more apparent and troubled than at the U.S. / Mexico border.
Thanks to the attitudes, aesthetics, and resources of the American government, a steel fence now occupies this line. While not quite the Berlin Wall, the tensions it reflects and provokes are not all that different.
With such heavy subjective loading, any artist working at a site on this line will have to deal with these realities.
Perhaps attempting to appear even-handed about border matters, Ramirez/ERRE has constructed a two-headed, bi-directional horse. This gesture is misplaced, however, because only the United States perceives itself to be under siege.
The work also suffers from an ailment common to most outdoor art in most locations: it's dwarfed by its surroundings. (A fact which is disguised by the positioning of the camera which took this picture.)
These complaints aside, "Toy an Horse," as
ERRE calls the work, should be kept in mind for a possible future in which relations
between Mexico and the U.S. are as untroubled as those between the U.S. and Canada. In
such a future, it would be wonderful to see a work like this constructed at ten times its
At the ReinCarnation Building, in a damp basement space, Fernando Arias combines polished steel panels with the rusted jagged steel of the border fence to construct a huge razor blade. Surrounded by darkness, it hovers like a massive guillotine above a row of mirrors. Atop the mirrors rests a slender line of white powder.
While readable as an evocation of the border's physical characteristics, the work is far more powerful as a greatly magnified image of a detail universally associated with the use of cocaine.
No judgment seems to be made here concerning such use. Instead, the focus seems to be on the effect that the reaction to drug use, embodied in the War On Drugs, has had on the border experience -- making it more secretive, more intense, more heavily armed, and more menacing.
The piece could be in many locations, in
many conditions of space and lighting, and still retain its expressive strength.