The War on Both Sides
The purpose of The War on Both Sides/La guerra de los dos lados is to turn distance into proximity, alienation into intimacy, to build an ethical bridge across the border that says the violence itself is Other.

With the support of the Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Los Angeles, el Museo Universitario del Chopo in Mexico City and Artbound, we have decided to approach the violence through the work of practicing artists and journalists whose task it is to tell its story--the story of our body--beyond the sensational and the lurid. We do so because the violence is not just a matter of drugs and guns and borders and laws and lawlessness. It is also the singularly powerful way in which these are represented: in newspapers and on television, in tweets and YouTube clips, in political speeches and cartoons, in films and music and literature, in the museum or the gallery and on the streets. Through language and image the war is made real and unreal, it is erased and revealed, simplified and complicated, contextualized and torn from its context.

The first event of what will be an ongoing encounter between artists on both sides of the border was a series of "tertulias" (salons, in Spanish) that took place during May in Mexico City and Cuernavaca and included some 30 artists of different artistic disciplines: literature, music, visual art, performance and journalism (which we consider, especially in the context of new media and virality, something akin to the "eighth art").

A delegation of three artists from Los Angeles (playwrite-performer-activist Raquel Gutíerrez, multimedia artist Rafa Esparza and myself) along with our colleague, the cultural journalist Raúl Silva of Cuernavaca, coordinated these dialogues, which culminated with a public presentation at el Museo Universitario del Chopo (one of the premier cultural institutions of the public Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM), whose new director, José Luis Paredes Pacho, has a long history of involvement in art-as-activism.

Our delegation posed a series of questions to begin the conversation. In societies wracked by extreme violence, is there an ethical way to represent it, and if so, how? Do representations of explicit violence run the risk of re-victimizing bodies? Can art play a role in healing social trauma? And, very particularly for our presentation here at Artbound: how might a trans-border dialogue among artists and journalists help create a broader conversation between the U.S. and Mexico about the violence?

En Español:

El propósito de "The War on Both Sides / La guerra de los Dos Lados" es convertir la distancia en proximidad, el aislamiento en intimidad para construir un puente ético a través de la frontera que divide Estados Unidos de México y hace que, al sur de la línea, la violencia y la impunidad parezcan, de alguna manera, desconectadas de nuestra parte norte -- una cosa mexicana.

Con el apoyo del Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Los Angeles, el Museo Universitario del Chopo en la Ciudad de México y Artbound, decidimos abordar la violencia a través de la de los artistas y periodistas que la enfrentan en su vida cotidiana. Lo hacemos porque la violencia no es sólo un asunto de drogas y armas y fronteras y leyes e ilegalidad. También es la forma singularmente poderosa en la que son representadas. A través del lenguaje y la imagen, la guerra se hace real e irreal, se borra y se descubre, es simplificada y complicada, contextualizada y arrancada de su contexto.

El primer evento de un encuentro permanente entre artistas de ambos lados de la frontera, fue una serie de "tertulias", que tuvo lugar el mes de mayo en la Ciudad de México y Cuernavaca, e incluyó a unos 30 artistas de diferentes disciplinas: literatura, música, artes visuales, performance y periodismo.

Una delegación de tres artistas de Los Angeles (la dramaturga, actriz y activista Raquel Gutíerrez, el artista multimedia Rafa Esparza y yo) junto con nuestro colega, el periodista cultural Raúl Silva, de Cuernavaca, coordinamos estos diálogos, que culminaron con una presentación pública en el Museo Universitario del Chopo (una de las principales instituciones culturales públicas de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM), cuyo director, José Luis Paredes Pacho, tiene una larga historia de participación en el arte-como-activismo.

Nuestra delegación planteó una serie de preguntas para iniciar la conversación: ¿Existe una manera ética para representar la violencia extrema en las sociedades azotadas por ella? y si así es ¿cuál?
The War on Both Sides: 10 Mexican Days
The War on Both Sides: 10 Mexican Days
Is it possible to translate the culture of violence into an aesthetic site of healing?
The War on Both Sides: Art, Violence, and Healing in the Drug War
The War on Both Sides: Art, Violence, and Healing in the Drug War
What is the role of the creative community in the context of the drug war that is taking such a horrific toll on both sides of the Mexican-American border?
La Guerra de Los Dos Lados: Arte, Violencia y Sanación en la Guerra Contra el Narco
La Guerra de Los Dos Lados: Arte, Violencia y Sanación en la Guerra Contra el Narco
Artistas de Los Ángeles viajan a la Ciudad de México para reunirse con sus homólogos y plantear una sencilla e impactante pregunta: ¿Cuál es el papel de la comunidad creativa en el contexto de la guerra del narco que ha cobrado un precio devastador en ambos lados de la frontera entre México y los Estados Unidos?
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