ANIMATION DOES TO HISTORY WHAT IT DOES TO NATURE. ANIMATION EVOKES HISTORY, PLAYS WITH IT, UNDERMINES IT, SUBVERTS IT, BUT IT DOES NOT HAVE IT, JUST AS IT DOES NOT HAVE NATURE. IT HAS SECOND NATURE. OR DIFFERENT NATURE. IT HAS DIFFERENT HISTORY. IT MODELS THE POSSIBILITY OF POSSIBILITY.
-ESTHER LESLIE FROM “ANIMATING HISTORY”
there’s a party in my sketchbook (2022-ongoing)
Gestures for a Plague Season or Goodbye Earth(works) (2020-ongoing)
Soft premiere Central School Project, Bisbee, AZ (2022)
Screening at Cornell Cinema (X)trACTION Program (2022)
Screening at Arsenal Berlin (X)trACTION Program (2022) *For this Berlin edition, (X)-trACTION wrote a manifesto as part of the collaboration between the Harun Farocki Institut and the Berliner Gazette’s project After Extractivism which is available here on their media partner’s website NON.
100 Partially Obscured Views / 100 Vistas Parcialmente Oscurecidasscreening at the Rio Grande Theater, Las Cruces, New Mexico in conjunction with Icons and Symbols of the Borderland, curated by Diana Molina (September 2022)
Included in a forthcoming exhibition as part of the 2022/2023 MexiCali Biennial The Land of Milk & Honey / La tierra que mana leche y miel
Gloria Anzaldúa, the renowned scholar, poet, auto historian, and the first academic to broach the topic of border theory, uses the Nahuatl word “Nepantla” to talk about the liminal space of binaries (geographic, cultural, gender, language, etc.) or in-betweenness. This space of transition or transgression offers the possibility of new-hybridizations and meaningful connections similar to the way in which an animation is formed by creating continuity between frames (also called in-betweens).
The idea of building a film about this region constructed almost entirely out of transitions was a strategy from the start. I was raised on the border between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez. In the years since I graduated from high school in 1993, I watched the two cities change in incrementally cruel ways with the implementation of federal policies that led to the obstruction of movement of people, culture, the river, and shared communities.
In 2015 I received a generous film/video grant from the Jerome Foundation which initiated the production of this film. I knew that I wanted to trace the roots of colonial treaties, policies, executive orders, and personal history to better understand this contemporary moment. I began the process by collecting vintage postcards from the late 19th century through the early 1970s as a way to track perspectives and changing notions of what constitutes a worthy image of this place and its monuments. The postcards also enabled me to respond, reflect, and interrogate the question of “what and for whom is a monument for” and how can monuments or monumentality also double as memorials. Two constraints informed my process in assembling this film. One was the idea of a film entirely composed of transitions which was to a greater degree implemented throughout the first half of the film. And the second was to only collaborate with people from this region.
Many of the later postcards were made by Roberto López Díaz, a prominent postcard maker in Juárez, Chihuahua, and Mexico who thoroughly documented a moment that is difficult to access now. In the process of collecting hundreds of iconic postcards from El Paso/Juárez, I discovered that my childhood friend, Claudia Muñoz Helming ‘s abuelito, Roberto López Díaz, authored the majority of tarjeta postales between 1950-1980 as such became Chihuahua’s unintentionally premiere documentarian. This interview sequence (towards the end of the film) serves as an appreciation and visual bibliography at the end of the film where Claudia interviews her tía, Paty, who lived with the family and observed much of Lopez’s incredible work. Sound designer,
Jonathan Rodriguez, stitches together sonic traces of people and place, highlighting the animated transitions between views, ranging from public monuments proposals, the injustices of Mexican American labor, resource extraction, the impact of current policies on people and land, and other interrogations of a border landscape that I’ve witnessed transform into a highly militarized zone.
El Paso and Juárez share history, share people, share each other’s gaze, their differences are constructed by imperialist treaties and policies, and obstructions that insist on their difference.