Mending the Border

Mending the Border: The Indigenous Eye of Postcommodity

Photos courtesy of Postcommodity.

Immigration, violence and border protection are heated themes in Arizona and New Mexico, where the members of Postcommodity, the interdisciplinary arts collective, are based. For the collective, these discussions ignore or bury deeper realities: the continued indigenous presence on these lands as well as their history of indigenous human migrations.

"The hope is to offer an indigenous perspective on how this ongoing encroachment of a line/a fence/a wall, interrupts the land and the people who are birthed from them," commented Postcommodity member Raven Chacon in an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network about the group's examination of the U.S.-Mexico border. "We also hope that our work reminds American Indians that we have Native cousins south of this line, who are being stripped of their indigenous identities continually in the border discourse."

The members of Postcommodity, founded in 2007, are indigenous: Chacon is Navajo, Cristobal Martinez is Cherokee. Their training has equipped them for interdisciplinary work and the creation of large-scale projects. Born on the Navajo Nation, Chacon lives in Albuquerque, N.M., and is a composer of chamber music, performer of experimental noise music and an installation artist (Chacon is one of the featured artists in the NMAI-NY's exhibition Transformer opening in November 2017). Martinez, born in Santa Fe, N.M. is a digital designer, artist and critical-studies scholar who now lives in Phoenix, Ariz. Twist lives in Santa Fe and is an interdisciplinary artist working with video, sound, interactive media and installation environments.

In the 10 years since its founding, Postcommodity has presented multiple projects in North American and abroad. Much of its work addresses the land and people's relationships with the land and each other. The collective members position themselves "as catalysts in order to pave or leverage resources that help produce outcomes that reflect the self-determination of the peoples who live within the context." Through a shared indigenous lens, they use indigenous knowledge to articulate experiences through art and connect to the public sphere.

In November 2016, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City announced Postcommodity as one of the participants selected for its 2017 biennial, the longest running survey of contemporary art in the United States. From March to June 2017, the collective exhibited A Very Long Line (2016), a four-channel video installation with sound. Presented in a private room, the viewer is surrounded by four floor-to-ceiling video projections of the existing U.S.-Mexico border fence as shot from a vehicle. The videos accelerate and slow down at different speeds while pulsating, hissing, clicking and shrill sounds align with the video speeds. The effect is dizzying, restricting and hypnotic; the horizontal boards of the border fence seem never-ending and imprisoning.

According to Postcommodity, A Very Long Line "demonstrates the dehumanizing and polarizing constructs of nationalism and globalization through which borders and trade policies have been fabricated. The border 'fence,' irrespective of the complex indigeneity of peoples from the region it occupies, is a very long filter of bodies and goods - a mediator of imperialism, violence, market systems and violence capitalism."

The Huffington Post listed Postcommodity as one of the "10 Artists to Discover at the 2017 Whitney Biennial" and commented that A Very Long Line was "one of the most politically relevant and visually succinct works in the Biennial."

Anya Montiel, a frequent contributor to American Indian, is a PhD candidate at Yale University.