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Art & Social Space
inSite_05 review
by Beth Rosenblum

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Throughout the San Diego/Tijuana corridor, in the highly contested United States/Mexico border, inSite_05, the fifth materialization of the international contemporary art exposition, opened to the public with a series of events held August 26-28, 2005. InSite_05 is best known for its artists’ residencies which culminate in artworks charged by artistic engagement with the geography and residents of this region. In the face of tension that has recently marked the United States/Mexico border, culminating with the Minuteman Project, in which Arizona residents took it upon themselves to establish a volunteer system of border-monitoring, participants of inSite_05 have taken on a greater sense of civic duty--to challenge and dispel myths about these neighboring countries, instead revealing an alternative series of relationships, dependencies and similarities between the two regions and their residents. This interconnectedness is not one that is imagined, but rather based on the daily life of the inhabitants and involves an exploration of the power structures in play, questioning the marginalization of particular groups and the overall shortcomings of the urban environment.

InSite_05, governed by a Board of Directors and funded by a multitude of private, corporate and governmental sponsors, with an operating budget of three and a half million dollars, has taken on a loftier mission than in previous years. In the past inSite has consisted of artist residencies resulting in artistic interventions, named so because the artworks involve the actual inhabitants and geography of the region, and an array of related lectures and conversations between scholars, artists, and critics. As in previous years the current incarnation of inSite consists of twenty-two “Interventions,”all under the heading of Bypass, which was co-curated by inSite’s artistic director Osvaldo Sánchez, Donna Conwell and Tania Ragasol, and “Conversations”that have been taking place since 2003 and will continue through the run of the exhibition. In addition, inSite_05 contains “Scenarios,”a component of artistic endeavors staged in areas not traditionally associated with the fine arts, such as a sight and sound performance, an internet project space, and a mobile archive. Also, a large-scale “Museum Exhibition,”Farsites, curated by Adriano Pedrosa is on view in both the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) and Tijuana’s Centro Cultural Tijuana (CECUT). All four components of inSite_05: “Interventions,”“Conversations,”“Scenarios,”and the “Museum Exhibition”were spearheaded by executive directors Michael Krichman and Carmen Cuenca.

Most of the programming went on view during the opening weekend in August and the remaining projects are to be revealed during the “Special Event”weekends held September 23-25 and October 21-23, 2005. During the opening weekend in August members of the press and other guests, most of whom were art cognoscenti, were invited to hear opening remarks at SDMA and CECUT, be amongst the first to view Farsites, and attend an array of “Conversations”and “Interventions”staged throughout border region.

The majority of projects constituting Bypass are research based, performative and/or processual, some of which were (or will be) visible during a single presentation scheduled during one of the special event weekends. Among them, the most spectacular and publicized intervention to take place during the opening of inSite_05 was Javier Téllez’s (Venezuela) One Flew Over the Void. This performance took place on August, 27, Saturday afternoon, on the beach of Tijuana in front of the gate that demarcates the boundary between Baja California and Alta California, where the world famous “human cannonball,”David Smith, was shot over the border, from Mexico into the United States. Téllez, like many of the other artists invited to participate in this year’s inSite, collaborated with one of Mexico’s marginalized groups, patients from a mental hospital in Mexicali (neighboring city to Tijuana), for the creation of this work. Referencing his most well known work The Cure of Madness, where he recreated the mental ward of a hospital within a museum, he has continued to work through issues of physical and psychological borders and in doing so challenges society’s discrimination of the mentally ill. With the patients’ help Téllez conceived of and realized the entire programming of One Flew over the Void, which included a procession of the artist and his collaborators across the beach to the site of the performance. The procession and performance, which included speakers defending the rights of the mentally ill and patients acting as if they were circus animals, concluded with Mr. Smith’s illegal border crossing. Téllez and the patients worked to land television coverage of the event and Téllez plans to release a film documenting this event from its inception to realization at a later date.

Like Téllez, Itzel Martí¬≠nez del Cañizo (Mexico) engaged with a group of Mexico’s residents, adolescents (many of whom were homeless) in drug rehabilitation centers, for her film Que Suene Calle>Let the Streets of Tijuana be Heard, which after three years of research and filming was premiered on Saturday, August 27 at CECUT. Likewise, her film project for inSite_05 Ciudad Recuperación involved a group of men inside an adult rehabilitation center, and will be screened on October 22, 2005. As Tijuana is believed to have the most serious drug problem in all of Mexico, the artist uses the media of film and her trust in artistic intervention to not only record the stories of the hardships faced by these recovering addicts, but to also give them a forum in which they can re-envision Tijuana as a place that can satisfy their needs and desires.

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