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Home | Tag Archives: Border Tuner

Tag Archives: Border Tuner

Bianca’s Borderland Beat: Singing (and loving) the Light Fantastic

A .46-second blink of an eye will yield a “U.S.-Mexico border” search result list that ranges from desperate migrant children in squalid detention conditions, 154 pounds of prohibited bologna, Homeland Security lawsuits, and second to last, a thumbnail glimpse of light beams at the end of the national media tunnel vision.

That thumbnail was an invincible resistance that danced across the night sky above the Rio Grande, dismantling the dark and stubborn wall of border bigotry and crisis with art, music, and 600 hours of recorded conversations between international strangers on the El Paso-Juarez border.

In an inventive form of artistic exchange via light beams, microphones and speakers, Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer exhibited his coexisting Border Tuner installations at El Paso’s Bowie High school and Ciudad Juarez’ Parque Chamizal.

The project mingled light and sound signals in a poetic twist that crushed existing border stigmas with the purity of human interaction.

During the multi-day series of activations and forums, groups of artists, community leaders and residents from both sides gathered to express cultural bonds and ignite instant friendships on a border soil fertile in kinship and good will.

For many, the experience was new and creatively adventurous.

But for some, like Frontera Bugalu band frontman Kiko Rodriguez, the project evoked a dormant nostalgia, awakened by memories of cross-border oneness, free of restrictive policies.

“Back then we used to cross the bridge with our instruments and we used to play with [Sonido Cachimbo,]” Rodriguez said. “There was way more interaction going on with all the musicians, all the artists, all the sculptors. Since the new policies started, everything’s just died.”

Frontera Bugalu, founded in El Paso, shared the Border Tuner stage with Juarez band Sonido Cachimbo. Each group proudly ping-ponged musical messages on border culture between a split speaker system and audience separated by the borderland’s scar of steel fencing.

“This was symbolic because now, after years of nobody talking to each other and nobody being able to work together that way, we got to do it tonight,” Rodriguez reflected. “It had to be done superficially through the lights, but I think people should know that it’s how the border used to be and that’s why it impacted me. We’re losing a lot by closing off that dialogue whether its artistically or musically.”

It was Lozano-Hemmer’s early fascination with the cultural and artistic activity of the U.S. Mexico border that helped lay the groundwork for works like Border Tuner in recent years.

As a Mexico City native who immigrated to Canada, his binational identity naturally spurred a heightened awareness of the crises he witnessed on the border.

“I knew that I wanted to do something in light of this administration’s adversarial narrative about Mexican migrants,” he said, further elaborating on how the platform was meant to encourage listening to other realities that existed in the same territory.

“What I like about the lights is they ignore the wall, they dwarf it,” he said. “It’s a tiny little piece of band aid. Walls come down. Projects like this help.”

The symbiotic sisterhood between El Paso and Juarez helped lock in Lozano-Hemmer’s decision to house Border Tuner in the southwest.

That, along with the talent of art curator Kerry Doyle. Doyle is the Director at Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for Visual Arts at the University of Texas at El Paso, who he credits with the diversity of the series’ activations and activities. She was joined by Leon De la Rosa and programming director Edgar Picazo during the 12-day focus on the flow of the border spirit.

In the 600 hours of documented audio, human beings laughed, cried and even spontaneously batted lashes via light beams in flirtatious engagements during literal blind dates. Border Tuner was an emotional ‘bipolar project’ that reconciled a territory in its natural social habitat.

“Projects like this alert them to the fact that this shared humanity is continuing and that this stupid wall will only try to stop bodies,” he said. “More than anything it’s just a power performance by an extinct nationalist regime that is on its last kick. The future is café con leche baby.”

To learn more about the future of Border Tuner, visit their website for updates.

Interactive art installation Border Tuner leaves sister cities with memories, dialogue, legacy

 After more than a week of the unveiling of the interactive art installation Border Tuner in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, the activation completed its run on Sunday, November 24.

While the beams of light radiating in the border sky have gone dark, the visual artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer left behind a gift to the border community.

In addition to the connections built by the hundreds of border residents who participated in the piece each night, Border Tuner will leave behind a tangible legacy to the border community in the form of an online archive that documents the twelve-day installation, including performances, public lectures and spontaneous participation.

This archive of curated content will be developed over the coming months on the project website,

Beyond the archive of the project Border Tuner will leave behind two gifts to the border community.  The artist has gifted the ‘Remote Pulse’ artwork to the cities of El Paso and Juarez.

‘Remote Pulse’ is an installation that allows people to place their hands on a podium which registers their heartbeat and sends it to a participant across the border.

The work will be installed permanently in a yet-to-be-determined installation in both El Paso and Juárez, and will provide a lasting reminder of the cross-border connections made visible by the Border Tuner project.

The Border Tuner team has also created a local fund to generate future cross-border collaborations by local artists.  This fund was announced on the final night of Border Tuner and will provide $10,000 in initial funding for proposals by local artists that address border issues and involve participants from both cities.

Information about the fund can be found on the Border Tuner website and an initial call to artists will take place at the beginning of 2020.

Gallery+Story: Trans-Border art installation helps Bowie students connect with peers in Juarez

A trans-border light-art installation that hopes to bridge a connection between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez shined brightly over Bowie — a school long known for educating students of all cultural backgrounds.

The Border Tuner installation consists of three interactive searchlights on each side of the border equipped with microphones that allow users to connect and converse live with people across the Rio Grande.

The El Paso component of the temporary art piece is housed on the Bowie campus, and earlier this week students from the South Side school got a first-hand glimpse of it by using it and connecting with high-school students from Juárez.

“I thought it was fun talking with other people across the border,” Bowie student Beatriz Dominguez said. “They were nice.”

The cross-border conversations were captured on loudspeakers so that visitors to the event could hear. Most conversations were simple and exchanges of pleasantries while others involved poetry, music and readings.

“I think it is something amazing to have these interactions with the border,” said Bowie junior Adrian Maldonado, who has spent the past week at the event selling hot chocolate. “I liked that everyone could come and see our campus – maybe they can join or change to our school.”

Bowie students have participated throughout the event – selling hot chocolate, performing and reading poetry and interacting with their high school peers in Juarez. The famous Oso Good food truck also has made appearances during the event.

“It’s such an honor for Bowie High School and its students to be involved with an event that symbolizes our relationship with our sister city,” said Arthur Beck, Bowie student activities manager. “These aerial lights communicating and bringing two nations together, show us how close and relevant our two nations really are. Our campus and students have enjoyed being part of the project and contributing to its success and unity.”

Bowie AP Spanish teacher Hilda Soltero embraced the opportunity the Border Tuner gave her students to collaborate and share poems with their peers in Juarez.

“I want to thank the organization of the Border Tuner,” Soltero said. “This was a fantastic idea after the tragedy at Walmart. You see the lights crossing the border, voices crossing the border and there’s a wall over there trying to divide us but it’s not happening. In our hearts and mind, we are one.”

Border Tuner is free and open to the public. The installation opened on November 13 and will run through Sunday, November 24. For more information on it, visit the Border Tuner website here.

Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy  – EPISD

Tens of thousands interact with ‘Border Tuner’; Installation reaches mid-point

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s interactive art installation Border Tuner continues to light up the sky and build a bridge of dialogue across the US-Mexico border, however Sunday, November 24,is the final day in operation.

“The telepresence installation ‘Remote Pulse,’ the “outdoor living room”, and the El Paso-Juárez community’s ongoing participation and dialogue also highlight the final week of the artwork has now been experienced by tens of thousands of visitors,” installation organizers shared via an emailed news release.

To interact with the ‘Border Tuner,’ visitors simply go to one of the interactive stations on Bowie High School or Chamizal Park and turn the dial to direct the searchlights. Once their lights intersect with other beams, the computer will open a bidirectional channel of communication so you can hear the remote participant and vice versa.

The ‘Remote Pulse’ installation allows people to place their hands on a podium that registers their heartbeat and sends it to the sister city and vice-versa. When someone interacts with the installation it allows them to feel the heartbeat of the person across the border. 

Along with the installation, nightly programming features talks on a variety of different topics involving the border community, arts and other themes.

Each night at 6:30pm the project opens with performances and programming including poets, rappers, LGBTQ+ speakers, technologists, historians and other various border voices. After these events, the general public is invited to control the lights from 7:00 pm to 11pm.

For more information, visit the Border Tunerwebsite.

Bowie High hosting international ‘Border Tuner’ art installation

Bowie High School will play a major role in one of the largest public art installations ever to be displayed along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border Tuner, a bi-national art installation that will link El Paso and Juárez using beams of light and a slew of shared activities, kicked off its 12-day run in the Borderland Wednesday night. The installation is by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

The interactive art installation is based out of Bowie High School in El Paso, and the Parque El Chamizal in Juárez.

Organizers said Bowie is the perfect host for Border Tuner, specifically because of the school’s significance to the Border community.

“Bowie is a dynamic high school in the heart of El Paso,” said curator Kerry Doyle, the director of the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Arts. “Historically and in the present day, it reflects the great mix of culture and language that makes up the rich heritage of our borderland. Its proximity to the border fence and its location adjacent to the Chamizal National Park enhances its central role in El Paso’s identity.”

Lozano-Hemmer spent two years preparing Border Tuner, an installation that hopes to foster and make visible the dialogue across the U.S.-Mexico border.

When lights from either of the two sites are directed at each other, powerful bridges of light and sound are created – activating microphones and speakers – allowing participants to communicate with one another and creating a cross-border connection and communication. These lights will be open from 6:30 to 11 p.m. every evening through Nov. 24.

The first 30 minutes of each evening beginning Thursday will feature themed programming that includes: cumbia, LGBT, migrants, poetry, hip-hop, art, feminism, orchestra, Bowie-Chamizal, agriculture, indigenous groups and the environment.

Bowie’s proximity to the border made it an ideal location on the U.S. side to host the event. The Oso Good Food truck will be among the featured groups throughout the event and students also will be performing on Nov. 20.

As part of the programming, Bowie students will get to work alongside with peers from Juarez’s Preparatoria Altavista and COBACH 19 schools.

For the full schedule and more information, go to

Story by Reneé de Santos – EPISD |   Photos by Border Tuner

Binational interactive art installation ‘Border Tuner’ activates Wednesday in El Paso, Juárez

After two years of preparation, the public interactive art installation Border Tuner is ready to foster and make visible the dialogue across the US-Mexico border. 

Visual artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s newest public art installation, Border Tuner, will preview on Wednesday, November 13, at 6:30 p.m. and everyone is invited to control huge bridges of light with their own voice and participation.

“Border Tuner is a participatory interactive art installation that highlights the unique historical and cultural connections between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso,” installation officials shared via a news release. “The installation allows for the sister cities to take their narrative and make it visible for the world to see.”

The preview night will start with 30 minutes of programmed performances followed by an open microphone to begin public interaction. The event is free and open to the public at Bowie High School in El Paso and Parque El Chamizal in Cd. Juárez.

The Border Tuner Kick-off will begin with a public preview on Wednesday, November 13 at 6:30pm with a brief opening poetic provocation, written by Andrea Blancas Beltrán and León De la Rosa Carrillo. Then Maria Isidora Pérez, Gobernadora de la Nación Rararumi de Cd. Juarez and Dr. Yolanda Chávez Leyva from UTEP will speak.

Beginning at 8:30 p.m. Cuauhtémoc Medina, Curator of MUAC Museum in Mexico City, will give a talk at the forum tent; followed by a discussion led by Border Tuner Curator, Kerry Doyle of UTEP’s Rubin Center; and other activities.

Programming, featuring different topics, artists, writers, musicians and other border voices will be presented for the first 30 minutes each night through Sunday, November 24.

The small presentations will urge others to follow and participate with the installation and communicate with the other side of the border.

Many of the artists scheduled over the course of the 12-day installation will also be sharing previews of upcoming work.

To participate, residents are invited to visit one of the interactive stations on Bowie High School or Chamizal Park and turn the dial to direct the searchlights. Once your lights intersect with other beams the computer will open a bidirectional channel of communication so you can hear the remote participant and vice versa.

For those who can’t be present during Border Tuner, they simply log on to the website to participate through the virtual dialogue switchboard or send a voice message via WhatsApp +1-915-633-3784.

Programming begins at 6:30 p.m. nightly, click here for updates .

Photos courtesy Mariana Yanez

Border Tuner launches website, program of daily activations

Border Tuner, the large-scale light and sound artwork that will connect El Paso and Ciudad Juárez in November, officially launched its public website this week and announced a program of performances, talks and activities.

The website gives information on local programing as well as a guide on how anyone can participate in this free public project over 12 nights.

The installation will depend on community voices to take the spotlight, interact, collaborate and give life to the project.

Beginning on Wednesday, November 13, Border Tuner will kick off the installation every night with 30 minutes focused on curated programming by a diverse group of voices from the Borderland.

Each day a select group of artists, writers, poets, indigenous voices, musicians, will open this public platform by sharing their art and voices with the community.

Confirmed participants include Batallones Femeninos, Adelitas Fronterizas, Orquesta Sinfónica Esperanza Azteca, Cassandro el Exótico, Sonido Cachimbo, Frontera Bugalú, Las Platicadoras and many others.

Following this initial activation the public from both sides of the border is invited to participate in the installation, open-mike style, and connect with participants on the other side of the border to light up the skies nightly.

Concurrent to this, a forum tent will showcase talks including Julio César Morales from Arizona State University, Serio Raúl Arroyo from UNAM, and Tina Rivers Ryan from the Albright Knox Gallery Museum.

For those who would like to participate but cannot be present, the public can send their voice through the virtual switchboard on the new Border Tuner website.

Border Tuner seeks to include reflections, thoughts, conversations and border stories to create a diverse and lively dialogue.

The importance of the community’s voice is vital as the project’s main purpose. Border Tuner aims to create conversations and highlight the ongoing communication, interaction and interdependence takes place between residents of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border Tuner is curated by Kerry Doyle and León de la Rosa, with programming direction by Edgar Picazo. The project is organized by the Rubin Center at UTEP, El Paso Community Foundation and Fundación Comunitaria de la Frontera Norte.

It receives support from the Mellon Foundation, Arte Abierto, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Via Art Foundation and Novamex.

The interactive art installation will highlight the complex and important connections between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso through a series of nightly conversations and performances that involve residents from both sides of the border and beyond.

Born in Mexico City, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is one of the most acclaimed artists working in public space. He is known for creating interactive installations that are at the intersection of architecture and performance art. Lozano-Hemmer’s art focuses on creating platforms for public participation.

His large-scale interactive installations have been commissioned for events such as the Millennium Celebrations in Mexico City (1999), the Cultural Capital of Europe in Rotterdam (2001), the UN World Summit of Cities in Lyon (2003), the Winter Olympics in Vancouver (2010) and the pre-opening exhibition of the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi (2015).

Lozano-Hemmer was recently the subject of solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the MUAC Museum in Mexico City and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. He was the first artist to represent Mexico at the Venice Biennale with a solo exhibition at Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel in 2007.

To view the schedule of programmed activities click here,  to send your own voice message click here.

Video+Story: El Paso a Finalist for $1m Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Project

Wednesday morning, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that the City of El Paso has been selected as a finalist to potentially receive up to $1 million as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge, a program that aims to foster creative collaboration, address civic issues, and support local economies through public art.

More than 200 cities applied, and El Paso, along with 13 other cities, has been invited to submit a full proposal.

In February, Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors of U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more to submit proposals for temporary public art projects that address important civic issues, and demonstrate an ability to generate public-private collaborations, celebrate creativity and urban identity, and strengthen local economies.

Proposals address a range of pressing issues and social themes such as environmental sustainability, immigration, national disaster recovery, and cultural identity. Additionally, the proposals reflect a diverse use of artistic mediums including augmented reality, light installations, murals, and performances.

The City of El Paso proposed the development of “Border Tuner,” a large-scale, light and sound installation that highlights connections between El Paso in the U.S. and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico.

The piece by Artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer will provide a platform for a wide range of local voices and will be an opportunity to draw international attention to the complexity and interdependence between the sister-cities that create the largest bi-national metropolitan area in the western hemisphere.

The project will be a collaboration between the City of El Paso, the Rubin Center at The University of Texas El Paso, the El Paso Community Foundation, the Fundación Comunitaria de la Frontera Norte, Ciudad Juárez, and the state Government of Chihuahua.

“The project is an opportunity to involve citizens from both sides of the border in a celebration of our complex and long-standing history of collaboration, and to share that message of bi-national cooperation with a national and international audience,” said City of El Paso Mayor Dee Margo.

Bloomberg Philanthropies will select at least three winners from 14 finalists in the fall to execute their projects over a maximum of 24 months. The grant is intended to provide catalytic funds as part of a strong, committed consortium of supporters.

The grants will cover project-related expenditures including development, execution, and marketing, but will not fund 100 percent of the total project costs.

The Public Art Challenge is a part of Mike Bloomberg’s American Cities Initiative, an effort to help U.S. cities generate innovation and advance policy. The Public Art Challenge allows mayors and artists to join forces to elevate the value of including the creative sector when developing solutions to significant urban issues.

More information about the Public Art Challenge can be found online.

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