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Borderabilia: Imagining a New Way of Presenting Art
by Kaytie Johnson

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KJ: What do you mean?

GP: I mean staged photos of the curator on safari in the Third World in search of new talent and posing in local attire with the newly found primitives...What if I taxonomize you on opening night, and place you inside a Plexi surrounded by your own cultural fetishes? ...or even better, se me ocurre, having an "authentic radical anthropologist" inside a Plexiglas box. Michael Taussig may do it. James Clifford might... It's right up their alley. They are quite performative.

KJ: Sure, I'm up for being taxonomized. It would be important to this project. If we're trying to push the envelope in terms of curatorial practice, this is a step in the right direction. If we can get Taussig or Clifford to participate at some level, that would be great, too! If one of them can't stand inside a Plexi box, maybe he would consider contributing a text from a "traditional" anthropological perspective for an exhibition catalogue, essay...or a fictionalized interview with you, the "Border Liefhebber."

GP: I truly believe we wouldn't have any problem finding an adventurous anthropologist to perform on opening night in every city the project premiers. Then a video diorama could replace them for the duration of the show.

KJ: How do you envision including the audience during the performance, or in the project itself? Will they be invited to be taxonomized, or to bring along and add their cultural fetishes to the installation? An important part of your performances has always been your direct engagement with the audience in the form of an invitation to become your collaborators, if only for an hour or two. It's remarkable what they are willing to do, given the chance and the appropriate props and suggestions...

GP: Maybe on the poster or the poscard announcing the exhibit we can encourage audience members "to contribute a unique artifact from their secret collection which reflects their intercultural fetishes." A selction of these artifacts can be added to an "audience vitrine." We can also incorporate them in a performative manner. On opening night we can construct "living dioramas" with a few daring audience members. We can dress them up with a few costumes and props as colonial explorers or "extreme tourists" and have them pose next to other dioramas.

KJ: Estas loco, pero me gusta la idea. How about this category: "border exotica."

GP: Me late...or "border chic." Let's problematize contemporary notions of "border." Nowadays, with savage globalization, borders are quite slippery. Everything "border" is "hip". Border culture has become ubicuitous, and somewhat meaningless. Tijuana is only a few minutes away from Berlin or Calcutta. My crazy collection of border exotica was not all made in Juarez or Tijuana. The great paradox is that many of the objects in my bizarre collection of barriobilia, Mexicanabilia and Chicano/border exotica were made in Singapore, Taiwan, China or New Jersey, like the "Tequila Tres Dedos." German MTV regularly features Tex-Mex and generic Latino pop sponsored by Bacardi. I was just in Norway and Mexican "cantinas" are now in vogue in Oslo. We don't need to bend reality too much. Frida and Jackie Chan have finally made it in Hollywood, and Televisa imports Mexican soap operas to Russia and the Middle East.

KJ: Can you think of anything in your collection that might qualify for the category of "commemorative medals and plaques"?

GP: I've got a collection of distinctions I've received throughout the years.

KJ: Like?

GP: I'm thinking...The ex-Soviet Artist Union gave me a medal in 1989 as an honorary member. I also have lots of gafetes of "official artist" ó residues and souvenirs of my temporary journey through the elite art world; being at times the first and only Chicano artist to be invited here and there; to be invited, say, by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, or the Tate Modern. I have lots of nametags, some with my photo looking very serious or perplexed.. They are hilarious. I can easily imagine a velvet painting or a photo of me with a jacket covered with all these insignias of neocolonial reconquista with the title: "Third World artist certified by...the name of a big institution."

KJ: How about substituting portraits of the collector's ancestors and colleagues with some of the black velvet paintings of past performance personas that you've commissioned from Tijuana velvet artists? After all, those paintings were the reason for our original meeting, and part of the inspiration for this project and dialogue.

GP: Fine, but we should also commission a new series of velvet paintings with contemporary hybrid performance personas.
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