The starting point of this project began when thinking about the (re)production of national symbols in relation to the reinforcement of national consciousness and identity. Furthermore, it seemed interesting the ways in which capitalism subsumes these symbols (in the case of Mexico, folk art) and enter it into the capitalist mode of exchange, commodifying culture. These signs, therefore, lose their relation to their referents and become commodities that are circulated within and across borders.
This is particularly interesting because not only are these national symbols marketed across borders, but it would seem that these symbols become reinscribed into the society that these signs were taken out of, formulating a construction of a national culture and national symbols. It becomes an act of power that asserts/produces knowledge on society in an attempt to fix identity.
One example that I found to be particularly fitting was the "Mexican paper banners," a series of paper cut-outs, usually fashioned with 'essentially' Mexican images - the donkey, the sombrero, peppers, Calaveras, etc. They are used as a means of decoration during fiestas and public holidays. This image, however, has become a product that you can buy at any party decorations supplier in order to adorn one's house for a child's birthday party or 'Mexican-themed' celebration. It has become a representation of Mexican, a perpetuation of its symbols assigned and reproduced by it.
However, I thought that it would be interesting to reconfigure this signs that are circulated through the product of the paper cut-outs, in a way to rethink the ways in which we assign these symbols to a national identity or culture. For example, there seems to be a particular preoccupation with borders in the relationship between the United States and Mexico.
If we can think of borders as an institutional process, one the demarcates authority/sovereignty and works on a binary of inclusion/exclusion, then it would seem that the implications of such a process link borders as fundamental to a host of functions including the legitimization of the nation-state and the formation of identity in relation to national consciousness. So if these functions of borders are being subverted or bypassed, how does this affect the sovereignty and authority of the state? And if there lies a fixity on the border and those who inhabit and continually cross these borders, in what ways does the formation of identity differ, being part of neither 'collective'?
These questions lie at the heart of what I think constitutes a rethinking of common representations of Mexico culture and identity, more specifically, the migrant worker and those who dwell in the border region. The symbols that could perhaps represent the culture of situation of their existence are 1) the minuteman, 2)the physical border, 3) immigration (institutions), 4) the migratory movement of these individuals. I decided to use widely circulated images to represent these ideas in 3 of the 4 possible representations. It is my hope that the use of a kitsch commodity like the paper cut-out banner in relation to a discussion of national identity and culture will be visible.
1. the image of the minuteman
2. presence of the physical border
3. immmigration control as institutional authority