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

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KJ: Like?

GP: I'm' thinking of "Cyborg Ricky Martin, made in Epcot" with vampire fangs, or "La Gloria Trevi behind bars." What about the infamous "Bush Laden," the Taco Bell Chihuahua with a tiny mariachi hat, or Vicente Fox as Vicente Fernandez? (pause). Wait...Subcomandante Marcos as a rocker...or even better, nude? Arafat nude? Ií­m thinking of the millennial Velvet Hall of Fame... I'd say let's commission at least five new ones.

KJ: Great! We should hang these portraits "salon style," in accordance with the way they were displayed in the original cabinets. After all, the installation won't be aligned with the pristine white cube, minimalist installation aesthetic. That won't work here; I think this project is also important and interesting because it also throws into question notions of taste by blurring the boundary between "good" and "bad" taste. If we include velvet portraits, why not also include hand-altered photographs of border characters?

GP: I know this old photographer who hand-paints and then enlarges old photos. They are gorgeous, bien 1940s. They appeal directly to the whole border nostalgia. The guy is an old dandy on Mission Street in San Francisco. He holds a rare trait. We could have him create a series of "old border characters." I've got lots of interesting photographs from various sources: performative portraits of various "Latin boomers", rare ethnographic porn, racist movie stills, etc. We must choose the images together. I get too involved and I need your bird's eye as a curator.

KJ: For some reason (Chicano artist) Victor Ochoa's "border loterí­a cards" come to mind, for their versions of border characters. Are you thinking of something similar? Maybe Victor, and other artists, might be willing to add items from their own personal collections to the curiosity cabinet?

GP: A room of "artist donations" or gifts. We could ask Enrique Chagoya, Ruben Ortiz-Torres, Cesar Martí­nez, Tracey Rose...

KJ:...or James Luna, Robert Sanchez and Richard Lou, "the original border artists," and others to lend us their favorite "border artifact." That way we could extend the collaborative process beyond you and me.

GP: What other categories do you have in mind?

KJ: Another category in the original cabinets is described as "exquisite and rare products of human artifice." How about commissioning a wax artist to produce some wax figures? Rubén Ortiz-Torres and Jim Mendiola just worked with a Tijuana wax artist, who made an incredible figure of Ozzy Osbourne pissing on the Alamo. Maybe we can find a collector who will lend us some wax figures from their collection? We could always "dress them up" to fit within the specific context of the project...

GP: Depending on the city where the exhibit takes place, the educational department of the museum can help us research in advance interesting local pop museums (Ripley's, wax, roadside museums, etc) and we can borrow stuff from them, specially the stuff they don't show.

KJ: You know, it would also be interesting for hosting venues to find oddities in the collections of local mainstream museums as well. Most museums have bizarre and often inexplicably obtained objects in our collections that are never put on view...How about including props and costumes from some of your past performances? Like the tricked-out "low rider wheelchair," the red-hot toilet of the Mexterminator, or the serape/Aztec kilt of one of your shamans in drag personas?

GP: Sure. We just need to go to my performance storage space and unearth my "personal archaeology." I'm also thinking of items from La Pocha Nostra's collection of poetic or useless technology and hand-made low rider prosthetics ó what I term "imaginary technology," la tecnologia conceptual de los que no tienen acceso a la verdadera, me explico?

KJ: We could also consider reconfiguring your project "The Happy Little People of Color and Their Quaint Artifacts" to fit the parameters of this project. You have lots of strange racistobilia at home, hundreds of bizarre figurines from different periods and cultures...

GP: We also need to include documents.

KJ: Now in terms of "documents", we could include the amate codex that you and Enrique Chagoya collaborated on, placed in a special case? It's highly likely that the original collector's cabinets contained illustrated manuscripts, or codices, from the so-called New World. Let's present our own version.

GP: Definitely. Along with a selection of transcultural comix from different parts of the world, comix that tell the story of how globalization was derailed and how street border culture took over the planet. I have many Japanese underground comic books in which the anti-hero is a Latino, and all the super-geishas wear mariachi mini-skirts.

KJ: (Laughter) Okay ó another category is described in the texts I've researched as "tools, instruments, and weapons." How about using some of your performance texts as "intellectual weapons?"

GP: You mean in a catalogue format?

KJ: Yes, but we could also reproduce excerpts of your performance texts and display them as "conceptual weapons" on the walls.

GP: Short poetic excerpts in Spanglish or robo-esperanto...but they should be highly designed so as to also perform the role of "linguistic props" and design elements of the installation. The exhibit should be approached as a "total installation/total universe," que no?

KJ: How do you feel about this idea: invite each venue that hosts the project to include an object from its permanent collection in our curiosity cabinet, one that the curator feels fits within the context of the project? I think this could be a fascinating potential component, one that would allow the institution to participate and would expose how, as a "high art" or natural history institution, it interprets the project; again, the politics (and poetics) of display.

GP: It's a hot idea. Not only one, but several pieces could be included: objects, paintings, forgeries, you name it. This way, the museum staff would collaborate as well. Every museum has at least one curator who is as crazy are...o no?

KJ: Of course...I've met a few in my day. They're the very people who will be interested in taking on this project, in collaborating with us, in pushing the curatorial and contextual envelope. By the way: are you thinking of performing yourself on opening night?

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