Borderlands Symposium: University of Maine

Next week, I’ll be headed to the University of Maine at Farmington to present at the Borderlands Symposium, assembled by our friends, TUG Collective. Here’s the brief on the symposium:

A series of talks, workshops, performances, and films that will illuminate some of the social, economic, political and ecological nuances along North America’s borders, and catalyze our attention to how various individuals, either acting alone or collaboratively, are actively creating transnational communities in which “our destinies and aspirations are in one another’s hands.”

Along with Lee Rodney, curator of the Border Bookmobile and border research extraordinaire, I’ll also be initiating a new project idea based on the legends of Paul Bunyan. It sounds absurd, yes, but so are the border realities that we face. The legends around Bunyan are such that there’s plenty of room to initiate a new conversation around the histories of the North American border – -Bunyan becomes a tool, a lens for exploring a series of histories and geographies.

We are proposing to read between the lines of these histories to see the changing representations of Mr. Bunyan and to propose other stories of how we might re-view him in the 21st century: could he be considered among the early architects of NAFTA ? A subversive border crosser, roaming freely through the Northern territories between Canada and the US ?

Those questions are tied to a number of workshops and group discussions we’ll be giving along with a panel discussion with the always incredible Riccardo Dominguez and Dan Millis.

I’m anxious to share some of our ongoing How to Forget the Border Completely research, it’s going to be a fun three days.

BCL Report: February 24, 2011 (back to Lebel)

We spent Friday back at Lebel, reminding us of the meetings we used to have a couple years ago when all this was just starting up. Given the size of the school and the resources readily available (like tools, multiple desks, ample light), we split up into smaller groups to tackle some “next steps” for each project on the table.

First though, we watch parts of the interview that Michelle and Rosina did with Stephen Lynn for How to Forget the Border Completely.

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Border Interviews: Kero

To get a jump start on laying the groundwork for our upcoming How to Forget the Border Completely project, we have decided to interview a small group of individuals who may be considered “experts” of the Windsor-Detroit border in some way.

Kero, a musician/graphic designer/video artist, was our first candidate for a video interview. He has had the frustrating experience of having to cross the border into Detroit quite frequently, many times spending up to an hour being screened upon entry.

Kero shared some border crossing stories–some of which truly highlight the absurdity of current border protocol–and shared ideas for how to improve the border-crossing experience, if even slightly.

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Two Countries, One Street

With our ongoing How to Forget the Border Completely research project in mind, I’m just about to sit down and watch Two, Countries, One Street on the National Film Board of Canada website.

Filmed in 1955, this short documentary visits the 3 Québec border towns of Rock Island, Stanstead and Beebe, and the Vermont town of Derby Line to see how residents and officials cope with a civic life that is cut down the middle by an international boundary.

It will be good to think about how residents and officials living in Windsor and Detroit might begin to cope with the reality of the border today and in the future, in relation to a similar situation in Québec circa 1955. Mind you, the wide river is what visually distances Windsor and Detroit from each other, and it seems that the communities of Rock Island, Stanstead, Beebe and Derby Line are not separated by a body of water.

It’s only 22 minutes, so check it out!

New Friends Across the Border: Visiting 555

Yesterday, Lee Rodney (Research Director of the Border Bookmobile) and I headed on a short 4km journey.

We visited the fine folks at 555, a volunteer artist-run arts organization providing affordable studios and workspace, gallery space, exhibition programs, arts education programs, and an artist in residency program. We met at their temporary location, while they await the renovations of their new space down the road (the former 3rd police precinct). Those A and B markers in the map above — that’s how close their new building is to the School of Visual Arts.

We met with Monte, Erin, Elizabeth, and Carl, discussing possible collaborations in the not-so-distant future, as well as spending a good amount of time understanding why they do what they do. The scale and type of efforts are perhaps different than those of say, the Powerhouse Project, or the Imagination Station, but their decisions are based on some of the same ideals (and certainly with the same enthusiasm as our own), how do you build a climate of social, aesthetic and community-based investment here and now?

Their programming and artist residencies offer incredibly engaging opportunities for the community and visiting artists, and perhaps most compellingly, they focus on ensuring that “data” created in Detroit can also give back to Detroit.

We’ll be inviting them over soon, you’ll get to meet them and get inspired too, don’t worry.


Maybe worth checking these folks out in the new year as part of HFBC?

OmniCorpDetroit is an intense group of designers, artists, engineers, musicians, thinkers, do-ers and makers that get together to build new things as well as share and collaborate within the Detroit community.

In general, we’re making, breaking, reshaping and hacking all sorts of things!

via About.

Thinking About Borders

We’ve noted before that we’re working on a proposal for CAFKA, as we’re interested in the border between Kitchener and Waterloo. Though certainly every place is bordered with another, it’s the kind of K-W relationship that intrigues us, as we’re wondering about the potential possibilities in thinking about Windsor and Detroit as D-W.

We’re wondering about examining the process of  instigating a formality that addresses one’s existence in a bordered-region that (at least from the outside) imagines itself as one coherent region to attempt to, in the first instance, create an analogy to the way that the border-complex exists here with the increasingly arduous reality of crossing the border between Windsor and Detroit, and in the second instance, imagine that changing this was as simple as creating a one-stop office to attain a regional dual-citizenship card / document / visa of some sort.

This also extends into our increasing focus in unfolding what shapes locality, and perhaps, by overlaying local concerns over other places, we might find new ways of thinking about the way locality is created here in Windsor.

Plus, we’re really interested in building some thing soon.

Imagining Borders in Other Places

Friday night meetings have been hard to pull together over the last little while. Managing to fit together six different schedules can seem next to impossible sometimes, so it’s all the more fun when we can actually pull it off and all be in the same room at the same time.

We caught up on the recently launched Storefront Residencies for Social Innovation, the upcoming Save the City event, and some ideas for the proposal we’re hoping to put together for CAFKA.

Josh and Rosina had been working on some ideas for our proposal, the idea of looking at the border-zone, so to speak, between Kitchener and Waterloo. They had been looking up the role of embassies.

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Earlier This Week In the Basement of BCL HQ


Monday night was another huge brainstorming session with some new and old friends. We spent most of the evening trying to figure out the potentials in doing something like a floating sculpture in the Detroit River. We’ve discussed this before, and it seems that the space between what we’d really like to do and reality is quite large.

That’s part of the fun though, how do you generate some kind of communication across borders without alerting the authorities, or how do you manage the headaches of going through the proper channels?

At some point we headed down to the basement and looked at a kayak Rod made when he was in grade 8 (pictured above). We wondered if it could act as a potential substrate for one part of the project. Though we talked about projects like the Waterpod Project or Andrea Zittel’s Pocket Property Floating Island project, it became fairly clear that anything we could do in the short-term would need to involve a kind of very limited-duration kind of exchange between Windsor and Detroit.

We also talked about a kind of guided tours of neighbourhoods in Windsor and Detroit (and while these have already been happening), the difference here would be to exchange with a group of folks from Detroit, so that we give them a list or map to see parts of our city, while we get to head across for a neighbourhood level tour of places in Detroit!