Political Equator III Conference

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On June 5, 2011 the haudenschild Garage continued its collaboration with the Center for Urban Ecologies at the Visual Arts Department of UCSD, Casa Familiar, the Tijuana River Estuary Visitor Center and Alter-Terra to present a round table discussion as part of the III Conferences: Conversations on Co-Existence (www.politicalequator.org) This two-day, cross-border public event took place in San Diego and Tijuana from June 3 – 4, 2011.

About Political Equator III

The third program in a the series of bi-national conferences, PE3 continues to engage pressing regional socio-economic, urban and environmental conditions across the San Diego –Tijuana border. These meetings have been focusing on a critical analysis of local conflicts in order to re-evaluate the meaning of shifting global dynamics, across geo-political boundaries, natural resources and marginal communities. PE3 has been conceptualized, co-organized and produced by , Oscar Romo, and Andrea Skorepa.

Following the format of previous Political Equator meetings, PE3 is a nomadic event, an itinerant conversation traversing the border landscape itself bringing participants to the actual sites of conflict. This time, the participants will oscillate between two marginal neighborhoods on both sides of the border known as creative urban laboratories for re-imagining the border region, San Ysidro in the US and Los Laureles Canyon in Mexico.

PE3 will unfold through a series of performances and public walks that will traverse these conflicting territories enabling debates and conversations at different stations, including an unprecedented public border-crossing-performance through a large pipe under Home Land security that will allow the participants to cross the border from a protected Estuary on the US side into an informal settlement in Tijuana that collides with the border wall on the Mexican side.

Attracting an international roster of artists, architects, environmentalists, scholars, community activists and politicians, PE3 will focus on The Neighborhood as a Site of Production, investigating practices in the arts, architecture, science and the humanities that work with peripheral neighborhoods worldwide where conditions of social and economic emergency are inspiring new ways of thinking and doing across institutions of urban development and public culture.

About the Political Equator

The Political Equator was conceptualized by Teddy Cruz in 2005. Considering the Tijuana-San Diego border as a point of departure, The Political Equator traces an imaginary line along the US–Mexico border and extends it directly across a world atlas, forming a corridor of global conflict between the 30 and 36 degrees North Parallel. Along this imaginary border encircling the globe lie some of the world’s most contested thresholds: the US–Mexico border at Tijuana/San Diego, the most intensified portal for immigration from Latin America to the United States; the Strait of Gibraltar, where waves of migration flow from North African flow into Europe; the Israeli-Palestinian border that divides the Middle East, along with the embattled frontiers of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, and Jordan; the Line of Control between the Indian state of Kashmir and Azad or free Kashmir on the Pakistani side; the Taiwan Strait where relations between China and Taiwan are increasingly strained as the Pearl River Delta has rapidly ascended to the role of China’s economic gateway for the flow of foreign capital, supported by the traditional centers of Hong Kong and Shanghai and the paradigmatic transformations of the Chinese metropolis also characterized by urbanities of labor and surveillance.

The political equator also resonates with the revised geography of the post-9/11 world according to Thomas P. M. Barnett’s scheme for The Pentagon’s New Map, in which he effectively divides the globe into “Functioning Core,” or parts of the world where “globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security,” and “Non-Integrating Gap,” “regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists.”

But while this renewed global border is a working diagram, emblematic of hemispheric divisions between wealth and poverty, intersecting a necklace of some of the most contested checkpoints in the world, it is ultimately not a ‘flat line’ but an operative critical threshold that bends, fragments and stretches in order to reveal other sites of conflict worldwide where invisible trans-hemispheric sociopolitical, economic and environmental dynamics are manifested at regional and local scales. The Political Equator is the point of entry into many of these radical localities, distributed across the continents, arguing that some of the most relevant projects forwarding socio-economic inclusion and artistic experimentation will not emerge from sites of abundance but from sites of scarcity, in the midst of the conflict between geopolitical borders, natural resources and marginal communities.

PE3 Provocation

While in the last years, the global city became the primary site of economic consumption and cultural display, local neighborhoods in the margins of such centers of economic power remained sites of cultural production. These are peripheral communities and neighborhoods where new economies are emerging and new social, cultural and environmental configurations are taking place as catalysts to produce alternative urban policies towards a more inclusive social sustainability.

The main aspiration behind these meetings has been to shift the conversation from sites of abundance towards sites of scarcity, from which a new civic imagination can be produced. But fundamental to the rethinking of the economic logics of uneven urban development in the last years is the translation of the socio-cultural and economic entrepreneurial intelligence embedded in many marginal immigrant neighborhoods. The hidden value (Cultural, social and economic) of these communities’ informal transactions across bottom up cultural activism, economies and densities continues to be off the radar of conventional top down planning institutions.

It is in the context of these conditions where a different role for art, architecture, environmental and community activist practices can emerge, that goes beyond the metaphorical representation of people, where only the community’s symbolic image is amplified instead of mobilizing its socio-economic entrepreneurship to produce new models of urban development. These communities’ invisible urban praxis needs artistic interpretation and political representation and this is the space of intervention that the PE3 seeks to discuss among participants.

PE Meetings: Trans-Border Itinerant Dialogues

Co-founded by and Teddy Cruz, in conjunction with the Center of Urban Ecologies at the Visual Arts Department at University of California, San Diego and the neighborhood-based NGO Casa Familiar in San Ysidro, the haudenschild Garage, as well as other regional agencies and institutions, The Political Equator Meetings emerged in 2006 as a way of connecting this border region with other geographies of conflict in the world. By engaging the political specificity of these critical junctures, the meetings have focused on producing new local-global correspondences, arguing that only through the radicalization of the ‘particular’ a less neutral and abstract understanding of conflict can emerge.

The Political Equator Meetings have taken the form of nomadic urban actions and dialogues involving the public and communities, oscillating across diverse sites and stations between Tijuana and San Diego. These conversations on the move have proposed that the inter-disciplinary debate takes place outside the institutions and inside the actual sites of conflict, enabling the audience to be both witness and participant. The meetings unfold around a series of public works, performances and walks traversing these conflicting territories and serve as evidenciary platforms to re-contextualize debates and conversations among diverse publics.

PE meetings have sought to re-define conventional conference protocols, generally conceived as exclusive, highly specialized and rooted inside the institutions. Instead, PE seeks links beween the specialized knowledge of institutions and the creative socio-economic and political intelligence embedded whithin communities. This implies the opening of the conference format as an experimental platform, researching new forms of knowledge, pedagogy and public participation.

An essential objective of the PE meetings has been to use the Tijuana-San Diego border region and the marginal communities around it as sites of research and intervention to forward a new level of public dialogue and awareness towards the production of more inclusive policies and economics of urban development.

Political Equator Consortium

After the PE3 event, the Political Equator will transform into a Platform for Operative Urban Knowledge seeking to distribute itself, through exemplary practices working within specific zones of conflict worldwide. The PE Consortium will be co-curated by Teddy Cruz, William Morrish and Cohabitation Strategies —Emiliano Gandolfi, Lucia Babina, Gabriela Rendón and Miguel Robles-Durán. The PE Consoritum will be a mediating platform for pedagogical, design and grassroots organizations to amplyfy exemplary urban process producing new expertise, the collective imagination of marginal groups and communities, and their generative socio-economic and political knowledge. The formation of this platform seeks the scaling-up of locally-based practices in order to expose, reframe and disseminate hidden relational patters and alternative methods and processes of social, cultural, economic and urban production, enabling new urban pedagodies towards citizen action and its impact on urban policy.

For the PE Consortium, researching expanded modes of urban practice implies the re-conceptualization of new models of ownership and cohabitation. The aim is to spatialize existing non-conforming urban models and processes in order to analyze and illustrate instances, whose tactical translation can propose and implement public knowledge and new ways of inhabitation providing accessibility to collective and affordable housing.

PE3 Guest Participants

Alejandro Meitin from Ala Plástica (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Kelley Lindquist from Artspace Projects (Minneapolis, MN), Emiliano Gandolfi, Lucia Babina, Miguel Robles-Duran and Gabriela Rendon from Cohabitation Strategies (New York, NY), Dana Cuff from Citylab at UCLA (Los Angeles, CA), Eyal Weizman and Alessandro Petti from Decolonizing Architecture (London, England and Peit Sahour, Palestine), Sergio Fajardo Valderrama, former Mayor of Medellin, Colombia, Rick Lowe from Project Row Houses (Houston, TX), Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha, architects from the University of Pennsylvania, Brian McGrath from Urban-Interface, (New York, NY), Elizabeth Méndez Berry, critic and author from New York, Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer from ThinkArchitecture (London, England/Vienna, Austria), William Morrish, urban designer from New York, Mauricio Corbalan from (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Sergio Palleroni, professor at Portland State University (Portland, OR), Lorenzo Romito from Stalker and ON/Osservatorio Nomad (Rome, Italy), Damon Rich, urban designer for the city of Newark, New Jersey, Francisco Sanin, professor at Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY), Pelin Tan, research fellow at MIT (Cambridge, MA), Diana Taylor, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at NYU (New York, NY), Ignacio Valero, professor at CCA (San Franciso, CA), Jeanne van Heeswijk, artist (Rotterdam, Netherlands), and Ines Weizman, architect and critic (London, England).

PE3 Guest Respondents

Fiamma Montezemolo, aritst and urban anthropologist (San Francisco, CA), Omar Pimienta, artist and writer (Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, CA), Ted Smith, founder Smith and Other Architects (San Diego, CA), Keith Pezzoli, director field research and lecturer UCSD (San Diego, CA), Heriberto Yepez, writer (Tijuana, Mexico), Rene Peralta, director Woodbury University School of Architecture (San Diego, CA), b.a.n.g. lab, directed by Ricardo Dominguez with current members Micha Cardenas, Christopher Head, Elle Mehrmand, Amy Sara Carroll and Brett Stalbaum (San Diego, CA), Norma Iglesias-Prieto, professor SDSU (San Diego, CA), Jose Parral, professor Woodbury University (San Diego, CA), Víctor Clark Alfaro, director Binational Center for Human Rights (Tijuana, Mexico), Leslie Ryan, chair New School of Architecture (San Diego, CA), Tijuana Calidad de Vida, environmental NGO (Tijuana, Mexico), Elana Zilberg, professor UCSD (San Diego, CA), Ramesh R. Rao, director Calit2, UCSD (San Diego, CA), Michael Cole, director Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition (San Diego, CA), Alessandra Moctezuma, professor San Diego Mesa College (San Diego, CA), Jordan Crandall, artist and professor UCSD (San Diego, CA), Steve Fagin, artist and professor UCSD (San Diego, CA), Anya Gallaccio, artist and professor UCSD (San Diego, CA), Kyong Park, artist and professor UCSD (San Diego, CA), Cynthia Hooper, video artist (San Diego, CA), and Reacciona Tijuana, activist group (Tijuana, Mexico).

About Political Equator II
Collective Territories and Territories of Collaboration
Fall 2007

The second staged an exploration of the intersection between sociopolitical and natural domains, foregrounding the notion of a ‘collective territory,’ but also a ‘territory of collaboration’ that transgresses hemispheric boundaries. In this space or territory a renewed politics of environmental activism, searching for effective paths to sustainability worldwide, increasingly collides and eventually clashes with the now-ubiquitous climate of heightened security and territorial dominance, as well as the now ubiquitous forms of neoliberal un-even development everywhere polarizing enclaves of wealth and sectors of marginality that are flourishing at national and international scales. At the core of such trans-hemispheric sociopolitical and economic dynamics we find the conflicts between transcontinental borders and the natural and social ecologies they interrupt and seek to erase.

The Political Equator II was a collaboration with LA-based project Transito(ry) Público / Public(o) Transit(orio), choreographing an event-based itinerary that traveled from Los Angeles to San Diego to Tijuana, and back again. The series of events and interventions developed by PEIII were hosted by major cultural institutions, neighborhood-based NGOs and independent alternative spaces, enabling the audience and participants to travel across Southern California through different modes of transit –train, bus, walking- and engaging in debates at a variety of stations -from neighborhood-based cultural hubs to regional cultural institutions.

This second meeting was also conceived as a conversation on the move, literally bringing the public to the territory itself, traversing diverse landscapes from Los Angeles to San Diego California and ending at the border zone’s no-man’s land itself between Tijuana and San Diego, where the Tijuana River clashes with the border wall. The collision between the natural and political emblematized by this final juncture served as primary backdrop for the debate on visualizing conflict, which PE3 sought to expose and engage.

About Political Equator I
Urbanities of Labor and Surveillance
Spring 2006

The first meeting explored the actual diagram that enabled the formation of the Political Equator project. By tracing an imaginary line along the US–Mexico border and extending it directly across a map of the world, what emerges is a political equator that roughly corresponds with the revised geography of the post-9/11 world according to Thomas P. M. Barnett’s scheme for The Pentagon’s New Map, in which he effectively divides the globe into “Functioning Core,” or parts of the world where “globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security,” and “Non-Integrating Gap,” “regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists.”

Along this imaginary border encircling the globe lie some of the world’s most contested thresholds: the US-México border at Tijuana/San Diego, the most intensified portal for immigration from Latin America to the United States; the Strait of Gibraltar, where waves of migration flow from North African flow into Europe; the Israeli-Palestinian border that divides the Middle East, along with the embattled frontiers of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, and Jordan; the Line of Control between the Indian state of Kashmir and Azad or free Kashmir on the Pakistani side; the Taiwan Strait where relations between China and Taiwan are increasingly strained as the Pearl River Delta rapidly ascends to the role of China’s economic gateway for the flow of foreign capital, supported by the traditional centers of Hong Kong and Shanghai.

These are only a few of the critical thresholds of a world in which the politics of density and labor are transforming not only the sites of conflict but also the centers of production and consumption, while unprecedented socio-cultural demographics rearrange flows of information and capital. The dramatic images emerging from the political equator are intensified by the current political climate in which terrorism and its opposite, fear, set the stage for the current confrontations over immigration policy and the regulation of borders worldwide. The result is an urbanism born of surveillance and exclusion which casts these geographies of conflict as anticipatory scenarios of the 21st-century global metropolis, where the city will increasingly become the battleground where control and transgression, formal and informal economies, legal and illegal occupations meet.