Borderline Ethnography

tijuanaThe Intermedia Workshop (co-sponsored by Mexic-Arte Museum and Experimental Response Cinema and with support from the Department of Anthropology, the Center for Mexican American Studies, and the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies) presents:

Artist and Anthropologist Fiamma Montezemolo.  Fiamma will discuss her work as an ethnographer and as an artist working on the US-Mexico border.  On Sunday, February 16th, she will present her award winning experimental video Traces (along with two other works by Sergio de la Torre). On Monday, February 17th, Fiamma will deliver a lecture in the Department of Anthropology at UT Austin.

All events are free and open to the public.


Photo by Rene Peralta


Sunday, February 16th
Screening: Traces

mam-logoLocation: Mexic-Arte Museum (419 Congress Ave.)
Time: 6:30 pm.
Admission is free

Fiamma Montezemolo in person.
Screening Traces as well as two works by Sergio de la Torre.
Full details below


Monday, February 17th
Lecture: “Borderline Ethnography”

Location: UT Austin SAC Building. Room. 5.118
Time: noon – 1pm

In her presentation, Fiamma Montezemolo will attempt to reflect on the trans-disciplinary and trans-methodological aspects of her work on the US-Mexico border.  She will discuss how her work straddles various registers of the ‘border’ concept and the multiple forms this work has taken over the years.  Montezemolo frames the border in geopolitical terms: with a particular emphasis on her fieldwork experience between Tijuana and San Diego; in cultural and metaphorical terms: with a specific focus on the different modes of representation in, alongside, and beyond the geopolitical border; in assemblage and montage terms, as an interplay of visual and discursive strategies in order to make sense of Tijuana, a city that has been hailed as the laboratory of post-modernity; in aesthetic and formal terms: through her academic writing, experimental ethnographies, and video-installations at the threshold between Art and Anthropology; and finally, in affective terms that explore the potentialities and the limits of the border as a complex structure of feeling.


Full Sunday Program

Traces by Fiamma Montezemolo
20 min / digital / sound / 2013

In this experimental video-essay ethnographic research and art forms combined with and an enigmatic electronic musical motif merge to create a meditation on the border life between the United State & Mexico. Based on both years of ethnographic work in Tijuana and an ascetic shooting schedule of 24hrs, the artist and anthropologist refracts her experience in the region by attempting to sculpt a textured living portrait, a sort of biography, of the Wall that separates Tijuana and San Diego. Images of a rusty wall, unruly topography, decaying surveillance structures, furtive moments of undocumented migrant crossings, and dystopian landscapes are interwoven with a mournful voice-over enunciated from a different time and place.  The fate of the Wall is sealed: its remains are to be collected like forensic evidence by a visitor, perhaps another anthropologist and artist, perhaps another undocumented migrant, from the future.

In addition to Montezemolo’s Traces we will be showing two experimental shorts by by San Diego and Tijuana-based artist Sergio de la Torre.

We The Dust, The Wind by Sergio de la Torre
8 min / digital / sound / 2013
Based on Julio Cortazar’s short story “La Casa Tomada”, the film tells the story of a group of young Chinese immigrants who, for some years, lived in an abandoned building in a defunct public housing block in downtown Tijuana, Mexico.

Nuevo Dragon City by Sergio de la Torre
14 min / digital / sound / 2008
A group of Chinese Mexican teenagers barricade themselves inside an abandoned building in Tijuana, Mexico. As the outside world is closed off and they sit entrapped, their surroundings and actions become a powerful commentary on their own social existence. Nuevo Dragon City has shown in multiple international film festivals such as the 27th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and the Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia. Nuevo Dragon City has also been well received in art venues, such as the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Belgium and the Centro Cultural Tijuana, Mexico.


Born in Rome, Fiamma Montezemolo is both a Cultural Anthropologist (PhD University Orientale of Naples) and an artist (MFA San Francisco Art Institute). She is currently teaching at California College of the Arts. As an established scholar in border and urban studies, she has patiently designed rigorous and long-term ethnographic-artistic interventions at the Tijuana-San Diego border where she has also resided and taught for many years. As an artist she situates her work as a critical extension and overcoming of the ethnographic turn in contemporary art during the 1990s. In addition to ethnography, a research method she also considers an emerging medium for art practices, she works with various media, including installation, cartography, video, digital photography, industrial materials, performance, archival documents. Her art practice straddles various disciplines, sensibilities and methodologies, including social art, anthropology, cultural geography, visual studies.

Among other works, Fiamma Montezemolo is co-editor with Josh Kun of Tijuana Dreaming: Life and Art at the Global Border(2012) and co-author of Here is Tijuana (2006).

As an artist and educator, Sergio De La Torre has worked with and documented the manifold ways by which citizens reinvent themselves in the city they inhabit, as well as site-specific strategies they deploy to move ‘in and out modernity’.
De La Torre’s work often invokes collaborations with the subjects and invites both intimate and critical reflections on topics related to housing, immigration and labor, to mention only a few. De La Torre purposely work with individuals from marginalized sectors of the cities he works in, including factory workers (Tijuana), shoeshine boys (Mexico City), undocumented immigrants (Los Angeles and San Francisco), and evicted families (Oakland). In his work De La Torre has tried to approach the lives of these individuals, not as victim-subjects, but have attempted rather to reexamine the meaning of their actions in the context of shifting global conditions.


Still from Nuevo Dragon City by Sergio de la Torre


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