ARTIST’S PROJECT: CONSIDERATIONS FOR ERASING/OBFUSCATING/FORGETTING A BORDER

 by Broken City Lab*

The border between Windsor and Detroit has not always existed the way that one encounters it today. Years ago, the border was fluid—traffic, people, and communities traveled between two cities at the edge of two countries. There was an understanding of Windsor and Detroit as one big neighborhood. Shared values, imaginations, and economies made the border a small inconvenience, but nothing more—or at least it used to seem so.

Today, the border between Windsor and Detroit is something very different. The fallout from 9/11, increasingly stringent passport requirements, lack of truly usable public transit, and faint ghost of the Detroit riots all create a growing international divide between the two cities that in actuality are only one kilometer apart. In spite of, or perhaps because of, these aforementioned realities, we have developed a curiosity around the border.

It may just be the echoes of stories from prior generations, but it would seem that if a border once existed that allowed an experience of two cities as one large community (that is, with an infrastructure that is somehow more permeable), then there are still opportunities to create an experience of these two cities that embrace their proximity (geographical, economical, and social). Forgetting, obfuscating, or erasing the border became our mandate in response to the cities we see before us.

Cross-Border Communication, Broken City Lab, photograph by Cristina Naccarato, 2009

Cross-Border Communication, Broken City Lab, photograph by Cristina Naccarato, 2009

For three nights in November 2009, we projected a series of messages from Windsor that were visible across the border in Detroit, as an interventionist performance series based on the desperate need for communication between these two cities.

1000 Pedestrian Walkways, Broken City Lab, rendering by Tom Provost, 2011

1000 Pedestrian Walkways, Broken City Lab, rendering by Tom Provost, 2011

In response to the lack of pedestrian accessibility, we imagined a new set of infrastructure for pedestrians across the Windsor-Detroit border involving 1000 wooden footbridge crossings between the two cities — connecting one front door to another, a park to a pub, and a corporate headquarters to a back alley.

Forgetting the Border Micro-Grant, Broken City Lab, photograph by Sara Howie, 2011

Forgetting the Border Micro-Grant, Broken City Lab, photograph by Sara Howie, 2011

To attempt to understand that barriers that prevent more frequent border crossings, we initiated a micro-grant project offering free cross-border bus tickets for anyone needing or wanting to cross the border in exchange for their stories.  This resulted in families reuniting, roller derby players competing internationally, and cross-country visitors making their way across the Canadian border for the first time.

*Broken City Lab is an artist-led interdisciplinary collective and non-profit organization based in Windsor, Ontario working to explore and unfold curiosities around locality, infrastructures, education, and creative practice leading towards civic change. Founded in 2008, BCL has exhibited and presented their work across Canada and the United States.