1985

BAW/TAF's strictly artistic activities help to protect our backs and legitimize our more activist work. In addition to art shows, publications, radio programs, and town meetings, we organize performance events right on the borderline, where the U.S. meets Mexico in the Pacific, literally performing for audiences in both countries. When the border patrol gets too close, we cross to the Mexican side. During certain performances, we invite our audiences to cross "illegally" to the other side. We exchange food and art "illegally," caress and kiss across the border fence, and confront the border patrol in character. We are protected by the presence of journalist friends and video cameras. The political implications of the site and the symbolic weight of these actions garner immediate attention from the international media. These are the origins of the border arts movement.

I begin The Velvet Hall of Fame, a long-term collaboration with traditional velvet tourist painters from Tijuana who reinterpret my performance characters. The process is very matter of fact; the more I pay, the better the painting is. They don't care about reviews or openings, but they get a kick out of my madness. My "conceptual velvet art" project will last for a decade, during which I get to exhibit these paintings at the Walker Art Center, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Corcoran Gallery, and MACBA (Barcelona). When I see these paintings hanging within walking distance of a Gauguin or a David Salle, I somehow feel historically vindicated. I love to cross the border between "high" and "low" art.

Within 24 hours, two major earthquakes destroy entire sections of Mexico City, killing more than 100,000 people. Poet Ruben Medina and I return immediately to DF. Most artists and intellectuals participate in the rescue efforts. My nephews, neighbors and I form a humble brigade. We carry corpses from a police station to the morgue. The city will never be the same. A powerful civic society and a new culture emerge out of the debris. Superbarrio, Rock en espaƱol, and the nuevo periodismo and radical cartoon movement are born. Felipe Ehrenberg declares the reconstruction of the barrio of Tepito his ultimate art project.

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*Radio Free Pocha