[-empyre-] posting from teddy cruz

Dear Renate and Tim,

I am a bit late in posting the first statement to begin our exchange…
I came to New York City on Sunday to prepare for an event that took
place last night (Monday 24th) at Petrosino Square next to Storefront
for Art and Architecture. So, I had not been able to post these
initial thoughts last night. I was invited by Storefront to be part of
their 25th anniversary series of events...  So my turn was last night.
I thought it would be fun to bring a Tijuana taco cook (to bring one
street culture into another) to make authentic Tijuana tacos on the
streets of NY... the happening was called "Food for Thought: The
Tijuana - NY Kitchen..." It went really well, people exchanged ideas
for tacos, we had great food and conversation. Probably later I will
have an opportunity to elaborate a bit about this. I realize that a
substantial part of my work has been interested in researching the
impact of the political and economic informalities that more and more
are challenging the official planning institutions in many cities
around the world. How informal economies are 'plugging' into vacant
space in many metropolitan centers to produce a very different idea of
public culture… Also, the fact that architects and planners continue
to ignore the impact of these forces, unable to absorb the
invisibility of much of these socio-economic temporal dynamics that
are incrementally re-defining our conventional ideas of urbanism. So,
somewhere between the tactics of the informal one end and the politics
of discriminating zoning (Tijuana-San Diego) is where my work is

It's early in the morning Tuesday and on my way to JFK I am trying to
send this… I am beginning my contribution to the conversation by
sending three fragments from a previous interview with Markus Miessen,
which I thought would be appropriate to contextualize the intentions
of my practice and research at the Tijuana San Diego border. I will
use these three impressions to begin addressing many of the issues
that have been brought up so far. In the next postings, I hope to
directly address my point of view about the meaning of the 'critical,'
in my practice at the border…

The San Diego - Tijuana border, the most trafficked in the world, is
constructed of landscapes of contradiction where conditions of
sameness and difference collide and overlap daily. At no other place
in globe one can find the most pressing conditions that are currently
transforming our normative notions of City and Territory, compressed
in less than 80 square miles. The politics of density and sprawl, the
battle between the formal and the informal, the legal and the illegal,
the tensions between enclaves of mega-wealth and rampant poverty,
urbanities of labor and surveillance, the fusion of anti-terrorism and
anti immigration policies, and so on. While Home Land Security is
currently pouring billions of Dollars to increase this border zone's
infrastructure of control, in unprecedented ways, a series of 'off the
radar' two-way border crossings -North-South and South-North across
the border wall and within these border cities- suggest that no matter
how high and long the post-9/11 border wall becomes, it will always be
transcended by migrating populations and the relentless flows of goods
and services back and forth across the formidable barrier that seek to
preclude them. These illegal flows are physically manifested, in one
direction, by the informal land use patterns and economies produced by
migrant workers in San Diego, flowing from Tijuana and Latin America,
searching for the strong economy of Southern California. But, while
'human flow' mobilizes Northbound in search for US Dollars,
'infrastructural waste' moves in the opposite direction to construct
an insurgent, cross-border urbanism of emergency. This
'non-conforming' border dynamics are constructing a stealth urbanism
that begins to transform the very nature of many San Diego and Tijuana
neighborhoods. The observation of these 'trans-border' urbanisms is
fundamental to my practice in order to generate an urbanism beyond the
property line, interested in encroachment and transgression of
boundaries, whether spatial or institutional.

I am interested in practices of intervention  that engage the spatial,
territorial and environmental conditions across critical thresholds,
whether global border zones or local sectors of conflict within the
politics of zoning in the contemporary city.  This suggests
operational urban practices that encroach into the privatization of
public domain and infrastructure, the rigidity of institutional
thinking and the current obsession with an ownership society. This
opens the idea that architects, besides designers of form, can be
designers of political process, economic pro-forma and collaboration
across institutions and jurisdictions. I am interested in urban
tactics that re-organize the systems of urban development, challenging
the politics of land use and the economics of development that are
only benefiting the large scale interventions managed by private -
mega block development. I believe the future is small, and this
implies the dismantling of the large by pixilating it with the small:
an urbanism of retrofit. The question that we ignore is: who owns the
mega-block? In this context, an urbanism beyond the property line
suggests procedures by which the invisible is made visible. No
intervention into public domain can begin without first exposing
political jurisdiction and conditions of ownership. As architects we
are responsible for producing counter spatial procedures, political
and economic structures that can produce new modes of sociability and
encounter. An urbanism that understands conflict and can embrace the

In the words of Cuban art critic Gerardo Mosquera: Multiculturalism in
the US can also be another way of hiding conflict, in my mind: 'the
Benetton syndrome,' the 'melting pot,' all colors united under one
banner, becomes a way of camouflaging conflict, the divisive tensions
across communities and jurisdictions out of socio-economic
inequalities.  Artistic practices towards the city, territorial
practices, need to engage the task of exposing conflict, revealing
socio-political histories and identities as a point of departure
towards intervention. In this context conflict becomes the fuel to
generate communities of practice, but also process, tactics, whose
only desire is to re-organize the existing real: who are the
stakeholders? What institutions govern particular jurisdictions? What
are their fragmented budgets, their isolated mandates? Who owns the
resources? And so on… No advances in urban practice and intervention
can be made, without advances in the restructuring of socio-political
and economic institutions, their ways of thinking. The primary site of
intervention in our time is not only the lifeless parcel, inscribed by
safe property lines, but, in fact, it is policy itself, the politics
of land use, economic pro-formas, social organization. Conflict yields
inventive projective practices of participation, re-organization,
retrofitting and alteration.

More later…

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