A funny thing happened when people gathered last year to make the border wall “disappear.” Artist Ana Teresa Fernández and residents from Nogales, Sonora were painting the rusty bars blue to blend into the sky, when Mexican police and Mexican Border Patrol approached. Project director Mary Stephens explained their peaceful intent, then asked the officers, “Why don’t you paint with us?… So they painted with us and laughed and joked.”
Then U.S. Border Patrol approached from the opposite side. Stephens spoke with them about their perspective and their concerns about the wall. They even passed their phones through the bars and asked her to take photos so they could see the effect of the blue paint from the Mexican side.
“I think this is the power of art,” Stephens says. “Through this indirect piece of resistance, we were actually able to open up a conversation.”
The Borrando La Frontera (Erase the Border) project is a collaboration with Border/Arte, a collective of Arizona artists co-founded by Stephens, who is also the producing director of Performance in the Borderlands at ASU. Border/Arte’s goal is to “highlight the fusion of art and politics” and “to explore and imagine a more inclusive and just Arizona.”
Because of Borrando La Frontera’s success, multiple border communities commissioned Fernández and Border/Arte to reprise the project. So on Saturday, April 9, artists and leaders in three communities – Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua; Agua Prieta, Sonora; and Mexicali, Baja California – will simultaneously erase sections of the wall.
The event will be live-streamed on Twitter and Periscope. Border/Arte will show the live-stream at the ASU Art Museum’s Combine Studios in downtown Phoenix. The presentation will be accompanied by a discussion with artists about the role art can play in inciting political change and pushing back against anti-immigration legislation in Arizona.
Border/Arte will host a larger discussion in-person with the Borrando La Frontera artists on a soon-to-be-announced First Friday in Phoenix.
On March 31, Border/Arte will host a performance piece, Dos Verdades/Two Truths, at the Phoenix Hostel & Cultural Center, which is owned by Stephens. The mélange of music, video and live action combines feedback from people on both sides of the border. “It asks the question, ‘What is home and what is security?’ Stephens says. “What does it mean to be secure in a place that is oftentimes insecure around border issues?” The March event is an abbreviated preview of the show’s international traveling performance this fall.
In addition, mark your calendar for May 21, when Border/Arte hosts “Asymmetric Bodies.” Colombian stilt-walking group Nemcatacoa Teatro will perform a theatrical dance addressing human rights and oppression at a secret Phoenix site that will be announced on the day. “We think it’s a really incredible place, and it’s historically highly politicized” is all Stephens will say.