Border Tuner, a major new public artwork by internationally renowned visual artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, is set to take place in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez in November 2019. The interactive art installation will highlight the complex connections between Juárez and El Paso through a series of nightly conversations and performances that involve residents from both sides of the border and beyond.
The project is designed to shine a light on unity between the two sister cities and the people of both the U.S. and Mexico and aims to help the border community reclaim its own narrative in the national spotlight.
“Those of us who live and work here in the El Paso-Juárez border know how interlinked our two communities are and know how important we are to one another’s culture and history,” said Kerry Doyle, director of the Rubin Center for Visual Arts at the University of Texas at El Paso. “As the nation’s attention has turned to the border increasingly in 2019, its important that we share our story and reclaim our narrative as one border community. This project aims to highlight the many ways in which Juárez and El Paso are interconnected.”
What is Border Tuner?
This groundbreaking project is an interactive light and sound installation with stations on either of side of the border, at the Parque Chamizal in Juárez and the parking lots of Bowie High School in El Paso. Three stations control 18 of the most powerful searchlight beams in the world. The light beams will be visible from a 10-mile radius. When lights from either of the two sites are directed at each other, powerful bridges of light and sound are created – activating microphones and speakers – allowing participants to communicate with one another and creating a cross-border connection and communication.
Each evening, Border Tuner will feature themed programming focused on the border community, including history, the environment, popular music, literature and commerce. The public may participate freely by using the tuning stations from either side of the border to engage in conversations.
Because of the ambitious nature of Border Tuner, the project will require both participation and investment from a wide range of organizations and individuals in both El Paso and Juárez. Border Tuner has already garnered the support of the El Paso Community Foundation, Fundación Comunitaria de la Frontera Norte de Ciudad Juárez, The City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department, the State of Chihuahua, the Municipio de Ciudad Juárez and the Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at the University of Texas at El Paso, among others in both the private and public sector. This growing network is itself is a central part of the piece, showcasing the power of cross-border collaboration.
To kick off the project, Lozano-Hemmer attended two special screenings of the ongoing documentary Megalodemocrat: The Public Art of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in Juárez and El Paso to publicly launch Border Tuner. On May 14, he attended the screening at the Technology HUB in Juárez. On May 15, the artist attended a screening at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in El Paso.
Crowd-funding and sponsorship campaigns have been launched to help make Border Tuner and its programming a reality.
About Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
Lozano-Hemmer is one of the most innovative and well-known artists working in the public space, having created large-scale, interactive works in cities around the world including Paris, Dubai, New York City, Philadelphia and Montreal.
Born in Mexico City, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is known for creating interactive installations that are at the intersection of architecture and performance art. Lozano-Hemmer’s art focuses on creating platforms for public participation.
His large-scale interactive installations have been commissioned for events such as the Millennium Celebrations in Mexico City (1999), the Cultural Capital of Europe in Rotterdam (2001), the UN World Summit of Cities in Lyon (2003), the Winter Olympics in Vancouver (2010) and the pre-opening exhibition of the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi (2015).
Lozano-Hemmer was recently the subject of solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the MUAC Museum in Mexico City and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. He was the first artist to represent Mexico at the Venice Biennale with a solo exhibition at Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel in 2007.
The artist has received two BAFTA British Academy Awards for Interactive Art in London, a Golden Nica at the Prix Ars Electronica in Austria, an Artist of the Year Rave Award from Wired Magazine, a Rockefeller Fellowship and the Trophée des Lumières in Lyon, among many other awards and accolades.
Shot over 10 years in 17 countries, Megalodemocrat, follows Lozano-Hemmer’s career creating large-scale works that entice an increasingly isolated public into transforming their cities and reconnecting with one another. Border Tuner, and in turn Juárez-El Paso, will be the final project and site featured in the film.
Editor’s note: Borderzine is participating in the Border Tuner project planning group.