Events + Media

Professor Michael Dear Co-Curates Exhibition on Evolution of Mexican-American Border Development

CED News
June 2012

In 1848, the United States and Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, ending the Mexican-American War and establishing a border between the two nations. Trazando la Línea/Tracing the Line: Past, Present and Future of Cross-border Communities, an exhibit at the Centro Estatal de las Artes y Culturas (CEART) in Mexicali, Baja California, examines the historical development of this border region that began without the current physical barriers that separate the two countries and, despite the walls, remains a place of continuity and connection — a 'third nation' of bi-national values and shared experiences.

Co-curated by Michael Dear, professor of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design, and Hector Lucero, head of the Cultural Heritage Department for the State of Baja California, the exhibition is a commentary on building and breaking boundaries. It highlights history, tensions and transformation through multimedia sources including painting, sculpture, photography, video, maps and historical documents. Dear's current research focuses on comparative urbanism and the future of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Michelle Shofet (B.A. Art History 2001) was the curatorial assistant on the project.


Exhibition co-curator Michael Dear with contributing artist Norma Iglesias, in front of a work by Einar and Jamex de la Torre, entitled La Reconquista/The Reconquest.

Among works by artists from both sides of the border are pieces by Berkeley alumni including paintings by David Aipperspach (B.A. Landscape Architecture, Visual Studies 2010) and a video by Claire Evans (B.Sc., B.A., Society & Environment, Urban Studies 2011) that follows the borderline from the Pacific coast to Gulf via Google Earth. The show also features an installation piece by Melissa Corro: La Moda de Cruzar, historical research by Salvador Gutierrez, and works by Nicholas Almquist: lotería cards and the exhibition poster.

"The border region is thought of as a place of violence, poverty, trafficking and pollution — sometimes and in some places it is — but it is also place of everyday life where both sides work together, shop, get married; it's a third nation," explains Michael Dear. "Tracing the Line is important because the exhibit begins to tell the history of this third nation — past, present and future. But 'what future'? I think I know; the third nation will be here when the walls have fallen, exactly in this place where it already lives."


Entrance to the exhibit, Trazando la Línea/Tracing the Line.

The exhibit is organized around three historical periods: 1848–1891: The first boundary survey and its aftermath; 1892–1926: From the second boundary survey to the creation of the U.S. Border Patrol; and after 1926: The rise of present-day Baja Norte borderlands. In addition, the exhibit's first gallery summarizes the pre-1848 events in Baja history and the final gallery considers the future of the Baja borderlands.

Trazando la Línea/Tracing the Line displays a broad spectrum of work from this third-nation hybrid culture — Mexican and Chicano art from the region, work by California artists, images and information about the border monuments, and images of historical records including treaty documents and contemporary accounts of travelers and explorers. There are maps identifying the actual gateways of trade. Evocative photos show the harsh metal barriers dividing light and sand. The grim reality of countries divided appears in images of lonely graves, evidence of those who died searching for the American dream.

Visionary artworks include an installation entitled "Recuerdos/Souvenirs," by Ron Rael (Professor of Architecture): glass dome-encased miniature dioramas showing realistic and imaginary scenes of cross-border interactions, and border monuments displayed as key ring ornaments.


One of the works by Prof. Ron Rael from his installation, "Recuerdos/Souvenirs."

Trazando la Linea/Tracing the Line runs from May 4 to July 8, 2012 at the Centro Estatal de las Artes y Culturas (CEART), Calzada de los Presidentes y Ciudad Victoria s/n | Zona del Río Nuevo | Mexicali, Baja California | México | Tel. (686) 553.6950 al 52.


Exhibition poster designed by Nicholas Almquist.