Mexican sound artist Guillermo Galindo has become well known for his Sonic Borders and Border Cantos projects, both part of a longtime collaboration with photographer Richard Misrach. Since 2011, Guillermo has been collecting objects discarded near the border: remnants, clothing, etc. With these objects he makes incredible one-off musical instruments that give musical voice to the struggle of migrants and humanize an inhumane situation.
Writing about Border Cantos for Hyperallergic in 2017, arts critic John Yau summed up the essence of their collaboration: "Misrach is determined to document that poisoning [of the earth] without looking away, while Galindo wants to transform the results of that venom (the physical effects of unknown lives and deaths) into a salve. That these two artists – with their different intentions – have come together offers the possibility that all is not yet lost." Galindo's performances of Sonic Borders are deeply affecting, combining elements of the noise avant-garde with beautiful, meditative tones and a potent unspoken commentary.
Galindo will give a very rare performance of Sonic Borders live at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum in Winter Park on Thursday. Additionally, a number of his pieces are on display as part of the museum's current The Place as Metaphor exhibition.
Sonic Borders has become very well known in the art and music worlds. Would you talk about the project and when it started?
In 2011, around the time I met Richard, I was already building my devices for my first border project called Voces del Desierto (a wind quintet written for Quinteto Latino which incorporated my first border sonic devices). Richard and I met in 2012. We worked together without stop for almost four years. Our collaboration was meant to be.
Border Cantos became a bi-national artistic dialogue, a traveling exhibit and an art book facing the issues of migration from the point of view of two artists from different national origins (U.S. and Mexico) and two complementary art disciplines (photography and sound).
Both Richard's overpowering border landscapes and my own creation of sonic objects from the detritus left behind by the migrants came together to create a holistic experience involving the visual, the sonic and the subjective. The combination of our work in this project opened a space for dialogue and imagination. The lack of human presence, the evidence of life, the questionable void and, in my case, a persistence of silence opened the questions to be answered by the audience.
Can you tell me a little about the weathered flags? Does the graphic notation on the flags have practical use in the work or is it symbolic?
These sets of flags were, at one point, situated in the California desert indicating the location of tanks containing several one-gallon jugs of water. These tanks with their respective flags are strategically placed by the Water Stations humanitarian organization. They sit at visible points within the landscape so that the migrants are able to find them. The symbols printed on them are codes, indications and narratives involving sound and meant to be interpreted in very specific ways.
You started collecting objects from the border in 2012, and continued through 2014. Are you still collecting objects from the area? Has your project been impacted by Trump's alleged "border crisis"?
I actually started collecting objects in 2011. I stopped around 2014, right after the material of the Border Cantos exhibit was completed. Richard collected most of the objects in between those two dates. There are still many objects stored in my studio waiting to be transformed.
I personally went there last year ... just before Trump started sending troops to the border. My friends from Water Stations took me to a very secluded area where immigrants used to cross. In the past we found many items there, but this time here were not too many.
How do you think the border situation has changed since you started the project?
When we started, the border wall was not as prevalent of an issue as it is today. Trump was not even a candidate then. The project literally grew parallel to his candidacy and culminated with his presidency. While Richard and I traveled to the different venues where he lectured and I performed, heated debates within the audience kept increasing as time went by. I remember I gave a concert the night Trump was elected. I think we were in Texas. People wanted to talk to us in person and everybody was literally hugging each other.
Tension gradually increased and the exhibit literally took a life of its own. I am not sure we were completely aware of how the significance and meaning of the show would shift and transform through time. [email protected]