Tchotchkes Without Borders: New Art Exhibit is Out to Make Bank

A new art collective out to redefine the meaning of good taste while dousing it with a good dose of border kitsch? You can bank on it.

Based on Hybrid Cultures author and Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana pedagogue Néstor García Canclini’s argument that “citizenship is constructed through networks of consumption,” Cognate Collective is out to analyze and diagram how the cross border consumption and exchange of goods affects the border individual’s cultural identity.  

The San Diego/Tijuana collective’s first forray into consumerist anthropology was 2010’s Phantom Market—a retail experiment of sorts wherein Cognate team Misael Díaz and Amy Sánchez scattered “cultural objects” at the Tijuana point of entry’s Mercado de Artesanías, and witnessed their reception from U.S. bound tourists who looking to unload their last pesos purchase cheap and usually disposable souvenirs to commemorate their Mexican adventure.   

That first try at guerrilla kitsch paved the way for their latest venture, reFORM where a call to artists on both the San Diego and Tijuana region was made to re-imagine, design and finally have the remaining small network of Tijuana plaster artisans produce one of the most typical of border objets d’art: the alcancía or piggy bank.

“Misael and I began documenting different alcancías at the Mercado de Artesanías de la Línea as part of his coursework for his Masters of Fine Arts at UCSD last October,” Sánchez tells El Zonkey Show.

“We became interested in the forms and their historical evolution, so we began thinking about how the consumption of particular commodities begins to shape the aesthetic identity of a region, and how most of the alcancías were not representing something that was necessarily true of the city’s culture, or identity,” the collective’s curator continued.

Within this observation, they noticed how the forms usually catering to the mass American market began to morph into more domestic, Mexi-friendly representations due to the current dwindling state of border tourism.  

“The lack of tourism as a consequence of tightening border security and violence in Mexico leaves room for the reforging of these forms into something that speaks to the native population in their own aesthetic vernacular,” she says; “not in the voice of rather infantile cartoon forms—which while valuable because they tell the story of culture permeating the pores of the border—are not necessarily the truest memory of this city which in recent years has been in turmoil.”

Interest for the project has been “very high,” Sánchez says, with design proposals still pouring in after the April 8 deadline.

And while the time has passed to be considered for fabrication, design submissions will be accepted till May 4, with select standouts displayed alongside produced pieces.  

As far as what to expect to see in the final show, mum’s the word for Sánchez.

“There have been very interesting submissions, some of which have been a bit bizzare…but mostly in a good way.”

With the precise date to be determined, reWORK will be on display at downtown’s Periscope Project in May.

Find out more about the initiative, here. Updated report on Cognate’s latest venture, What Are You Bringing from Mexico?/Qué Traes de México? here.

 Alcancía images by El Mestizo Imports.

One Response to “Tchotchkes Without Borders: New Art Exhibit is Out to Make Bank”
  1. Flor Medina Leal says:

    Wow! I love the way Amy and Misael, look at everday objects and go beyond what they have infront of them. Piggy banks sold at the border and their evolution? Who thinks of this kinds of things? This is local art, anyone who has grown up on the border can identify with this. I love the piece and I declare myself a big fan of both Amy Sanchez and Misael Díaz. Mucho Éxito y sigan tan creativos como siempre.

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