What if we stopped dividing the United States and Mexico into two separate nations, and instead studied their shared histories, cultures, and economies and acknowledged them as pieces of a single region? For one semester, architect Tatiana Bilbao organized an academic initiative called Two Sides of the Border: Redefining the Region that incorporated the research of 13 different architecture studios across North America. That research formed the groundwork for a photographic essay by Iwan Baan that captures an immense diversity of architectural, political and social scenarios across the continent.
Two Sides of the Border is an exhibition in the form of an atlas, a book that selectively draws space and defines borders in order to produce a preferred image. The new atlas presents three perspectives: a Projective Atlas , an Objective Atlas, and a Subjective Atlas. The Projective Atlas displays work from the 13 studios’ examinations which examined how the regions interact to study and propose projects dealing with cross border issues: migration, farming labor in Ohio and Kansas, and remittance houses in Mexico. The Objective Atlas shows new maps by Thomas Paturet alongside historic maps presenting 400 years of shifting borders in the region- destabilizing the collective imagination of the border. The Subjective Atlas is the photo essay by Iwan Baan who traveled to each of the research sites and captured their changing landscapes and architecture’s role in these regional relationships.
Design and Curation
The curation of the show focuses on presenting the enormous spread of work as a cohesive project by assembling it into a book or Atlas. Atlas’ have always captured our imagination and it is through imagination that this research asks us to consider how we understand what the border means. The design of the show is like a large reading room, designed to carefully display maps, photographs and research on soft fabric tables. The tables mimic the massiveness of Paul Rudolph’s gallery at the Art and Architecture Building and delicate lights hang over each table illuminating the works from directly above. The exhibition is a reading room presenting a focused space of research and imagination in order to imagine a new concept of the US Mexico region.