Two School of Art graduate students, Jacqueline Arias and Mariel Miranda, were selected by the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry as awardees for the Border Lab Graduate Fellowship program, made possible with funding from the Office of the Provost and University of Arizona HSI Initiatives.
This program aims to advance the mission of the Border Lab initiative, an effort to develop the university’s U.S. and Mexico borderland studies and research.
As part of the Border Lab’s effort to make UArizona a top destination for U.S. – Mexico borderlands research, the fellowship program supports students working to elevate marginalized communities within the borderlands and challenge existing interpretations and narratives about the border.
“With the support granted by this fellowship I will be able to activate a series of science fiction workshops at Tijuana in the neighborhood where I grew up and lived in since 1993,” Mariel Miranda, graduate student and recipient of the program said. “I am very grateful for this opportunity and look forward to being a part of the overall effort to bring many border stories to a broader audience.”
Two graduate art students selected for Border Lab fellowship
“We need to continue to support diverse and underrepresented graduate students on campus, many of whom reflect the diverse borderlands communities of our region,” said Confluencenter Director, Dr. Javier Duran. “Accomplishing this goal through our program launch is significant because these institutional investments are an essential part of the University’s strategic priorities to become a national leader in the field of border studies,”
A total of five graduate students have been awarded with $10,000 each for participation and completion of their research projects which aim to address the grand challenges in our society that straddle our geopolitical borders and elevate UArizona’s identity as the global epicenter of border studies.
- Jacqueline Arias, College of Fine Arts, School of Art
- Elizabeth Astorga Gaxiola, College of Education, Dept. of Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies
- Ramon César Méndez, College of Humanities, Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese
- Mariel Miranda, College of Fine Arts, School of Art
- Carmella Scorcia Pacheco, College of Humanities, Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese
The Border Lab Graduate Fellowship emerged from the shared goals and efforts of several units across campus to advance border studies, support graduate students, and create student cohorts with opportunities that facilitate the blending of perspectives and ideas. In addition to financial support, the students will receive guidance, professional mentorship, and they will attend academic development workshops from an interdisciplinary group of UArizona faculty.
Arias is an artist, independent filmmaker, and educator born in Alajuela, Costa Rica and raised in rural Ohio. This varied geographical and cultural history has inspired a body of work that addresses ideas of heritage, race, and socially constructed identities. Jacqueline studied photography at Parsons School of Design, experimenting with video art and performance work. Her work addresses the invisible social barriers in our society and the feelings of cultural detachment they cause.
Terrains of Separation
Terrains of Separation is a multi-media art cartography project and intervention against nationalistic boundaries that employs non-traditional mapmaking. Arias will be creating 2D maps by layering map elevation data, archival images and photographic imagery. These maps will tell of the journeys and paths migrants and their families experience when traversing from one side of the border to the other. Jacqueline will explore the physicality, distance and the experience of loss that political structures create between families. Using historical cartographic research, this project will interrogate cultures of maps and mapmaking to upend notions of a fixed one-perspective view of our world and our topography. In doing this, Terrains of Separation will highlight the multi-perspectival experience of Latinx people, which is often dismissed. This project proposes that these elevation lines and collections of immigrants’ journeys will embody stories of courage, trauma and faith, which all immigrants experience when they are forced to leave their home country and culture. These unconventional maps will combine traditional topographic mapping techniques with oral histories, video and photography to question the divisions created by political boundaries, reinserting our latinx experience and revealing elements of our humanity that these systems are attempting to erase. Research and content from Terrains of Separation will be added to an online bilingual interactive map as a way to engage a broader and diverse community.
“I am grateful to the interdisciplinary connections I’ve made through this fellowship. My cohorts are engaging with borderland theory from many different perspectives including sociocultural studies, folk music as activism, and Latin American literature. This helps to inform my borderlands project which is using mapping to document cartographies of displacement and dispossession. My research on borderland theory incorporates my experiences of crossing borders and cultural displacement. This opportunity will build upon my previous work that explores what it means to be Latinx through experimental video, data-visualizations, 3D media, and archival materials.”
Miranda is a sociologist and visual artist. She is the co-founder and director of the International Festival of Photography Tijuana. Her visual art is built at the intersection of research, theoretical writing, production, and the dismantling of images. Her work is primarily concerned with the visual and textual appropriation of archival materials to discuss issues related to the history of images: their epistemic inscription, their rhetorical narratives, and their role in the complex social relations of power mediated by class, ethnicity and gender.
The dust or the -solar-wind, perhaps
In 2006 a maquiladora from Taiwan named Eson Multiwin was established on the borders of Miranda’s barrio Las Cumbres. For the last five years, the maquiladora has been manufacturing tiny pieces for the famous “eco-friendly” Tesla electric vehicles. Elon Musk the CEO of Tesla and Space X has said many times that he seeks to colonize the territories of Mars and become emperor. Through their labor, Maquila workers of Las Cumbres are involved with his vision whether they know or not, for the financialization of a stellar colonial project. A plan that presents itself as the opportunity we have to survive as a species, into the future. The labor dynamics of the maquiladora, as a production apparatus, and its international circulation of capital through corporations, has made Miranda thinks about the updated forms of exploitation of territories, commodity production, and regulation of the worker bodies that inhabit the global south. Her aim in this project is working beside her neighbors who are workers, and ex workers of the maquila to explore, understand and learn about the multiple ways that they are imagining three primary concepts: community, labor, and future. Miranda will achieve this through conducting a science fiction workshop in the front yard of her home—a space that has been hosting grassroot activities since the 1990s, without knowing it was helping with housing immigrants’ workers, supporting domestic abused women’s and children’s and youth at risk, among many others.
“We are about to finish the syllabus for the first 6 sessions devoted to playing with visual representation strategies and experimental writing that will give us the first tools to think about the 3 concepts that really matter for the project: community, labor and future. I feel also very lucky to be enrolled this semester in an Art History class with Prof. Custer that deals with Environment issues, the class content is helping me in addressing my own project from challenging perspectives and exciting theories like New Materialism and eco-critical perspectives to keep elaborating in the social, political, economical and environmental implications of these maquiladoras/factories have in our territories and bodies.”
>> Miranda: 2020-21 University Fellows, 02.23.21
>> Miranda: 2021 Mellon-Fronteridades Graduate Fellows, 02.23.21
>> Miranda: 2021 Marcia Grand Centennial Sculpture Prize, 07.02.21
Since arriving on campus, Miranda has earned four major fellowships and prizes.
“The University Fellows award was a game changer in my arrival here. The grant that not only covered all my tuition but also paid for all my living expenses during the first scholar year, that gave me the opportunity to focus only on my work without the responsibility of having to teach or work aside my own research projects. I used my first scholar year to develop these projects that have occupied all my time this second scholar year including “The dust or the -solar-wind, perhaps”.
“The support of the Mellon-Fronteridades Grad Fellowship award helped me to transcribe 100 dreams that I collected in audio for seven years, a period (2015-2021) in Mexico that has been marked by intense pain and terror but at the same time incredible strength and solidarity among the people. The manuscript of those dreams and a visual representation exercise is the first step for a publication.
“The Marcia Grand Centennial Sculpture Prize has help me to push my visual practice into a new language of materials and aesthetic strategies that I have found fascinated, the result of this 3D production will be share for a first time in a solo exhibition that will happen in Tijuana on June 10 at Centro Cultural Tijuana where I will display a fantastical birds collage series and an installation that operates as a homesite.
“The project that I submitted to the Border Lab Fellowship is the one in which I will focus in my third scholar year as my thesis project.”