Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Torolab, "The Region of the Transborder Trousers" 2005

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An artist collective based in Tijuana, Torolab was founded in 1995 by leader Raúl Cardenas Osuna “…as a socially engaged workshop committed to examining and elevating the quality of life for residents of Tijuana and the trans-border region through a culture of ideologically advanced design.” Working in collaboration, Torolab members who include artists, designers, architects and musicians utilize their skills and new technology to research and explore ways to improve urban environments with works ranging from media projects to construction systems and clothing design. There work is very specific to the locations and sites they work in. For instance, in 2008 they created One Degree Celsius, an installation including a scientific garden station and architectural plans for the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum (USFCAM). Equipped with streamline gadgets, this futuristic garden lab was a proposal for the city of Tampa to promote a more plant-sustainable generation.

This video installation titled The Region of the Transborder Trousers was presented in 2005 in Madrid at an ARCO contemporary art fair. Using satellite and the GPS, Torolab investigates the border identities between Tijuana and San Diego by tracking and recording the commute of its members crossing these boundaries for five days. To achieve this, participants were given a GPS transmitter and attire designed by Torolab with a hidden pocket for a fake Mexican passport. In addition, the fuel used by each member during their travels was recorded. This information was then entered into a computer and projected onto a screen depicting a map of Tijuana and San Diego and the commuting members, each represented by a colored moving dot. In addition, each dot is encircled by a linier portion which virtually encloses the commuter as their car fuel depletes. Perhaps this suggests that although fuel can take people far, it also has its limits.

In an interview, Osuna communicates the idea of contested borders, emphasizing that they not only include political, economical and linguistic borders, but also the personal borders we experience in our lives. He continues to say that these borders should not be viewed as an ends but as means for growth and the establishment of new frontiers in whatever we pursue in life. In the Vertex Project created from 1995-2000, Torolab took the Tijuana/San Diego border as an opportunity to unite these territories by proposing a media bridge to be built directly over the regions. In essence, the bridge would have two large screens at the center to allow individuals to walk by and post a text messages for display from their cell phones. In this way, and as demonstrated with Region of the Transborder Trousers, new media and location are quintessential components of Torolab’s work which addresses various barriers and urban issues to advance social transformation.

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