Objects from the Borderlands

Objects from the Borderlands: The U.S.–Mexico Anti-Archive

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For  ten years I have documented and collected objects from the U.S.–Mexico Border, creating an “Anti-Archive” that challenges who is worthy of documentation, attention, and remembrance. My work on the border—a geopolitical flash point in which contested bodies (race), contested statuses (refugee vs. “illegal”), and contested histories are bound together—is a witnessing that serves its purpose only if others witness it in turn. The work serves as  source material for scholars and citizens to engage and interpret. The work functions as a sort of reliquary, with photographs accompanied by clothing and objects found on the border.
            In 2007 I began making yearly trips/pilgrimages to photograph objects left behind by undocumented migrants crossing the U.S–Mexico border between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas, and west to Laredo and Eagle Pass, Texas. As Gloria Anzaldua says in her groundbreaking book Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza, “The U.S.–Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the life blood of two worlds merging to form a third country—a border culture” (p. 25). This Border Culture and the space in-between is central to this project, which takes an ever-evolving imagined space and concretizes it as a collection of specific objects, first as they are found in the landscape, then as they are archived, and, finally, as they are united in exhibitions. This work creates a narrative of memory that stands as a corrective and a challenge to the dominant histories housed in state-sanctioned archives.

 Border Fence near Brownsville, Texas, 2015

Plastic boat found of the north bank of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo River 
used to cross into the U.S. near Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico, 2015

Border Wall from the viewpoint of someone
about to cross into the U.S. near Hidalgo, Texas, 2014

Surveillance Cameras near Falfurrias, Texas checkpoint (about
100 miles north of Brownsville, Texas and the border,) 2014

Border Fence near Hope Park, Brownsville, Texas, 2015

Riverbank Near Brownsville, Texas, 2014

Campsite Near McAllen, Texas, 2011

Belongings (Pills, Blue Shoestrings, Bible, 
Goggles, Toothpaste, Socks, Red Shirt)
Hidalgo, Texas, 2013

Girl’s Shoes (Pink Love Shoes), 
Near Brownsville, Texas, 2013
Glove, Toothbrushes and Orange, Plastic String,
Hidalgo, Texas, 2013

Bullets, Near McAllen, Texas, 2010
 Nest (Hiding Place), Laredo, Texas, 2011

Khaki Pants, Brownsville, Texas, 2010

Cross, Laredo, Texas, 2011

Clothes and Wall, Hidalgo, Texas, 2013

Yellow Toothbrush, Anti- Archive 
Object No. 15, Brownsville, Texas, Found 2008
Red Bra, Anti-Archive 
Object No. 8, Brownsville, Texas, Found 2008

Comb with Scratched A, Anti-Archive 
Object No. 76, Brownsville, Texas, Found 2008

Eyeshadow, Anti-Archive Object No. 136,
Brownsville, Texas, Found 2007

Toy Soldier, Anti-Archive 
Object No. 240, Brownsville, Texas, Found 2008

Detention Center ID Bracelet, Anti-Archive
Object No. 274, Matamoros, Mexico, Found 2009

Woman’s Black Shoe, Anti-Archive 
Object No. 307, Brownsville, Texas, Found 2009
Man’s Hemmed Shorts, Anti-Archive
Object No. 320, Brownsville, Texas, Found 2010

Woman’s Pink Underwear, Anti-Archive 
Object No. 346, Brownsville, Texas, Found 2010
Border Patrol Coffee Cup, Anti-Archive
Object No. 522, Brownsville, Texas, Found 2012
Goggles, Anti-Archive Object No. 502, Laredo,
 Texas, Found 2011
Spanish Language Bible, Anti-Archive Object No. 506,
Hidalgo, Texas found 2013