This article was featured in the exhibition publication of Suplex Presents: Three Exhibitions: Lauren Moya Ford. To read more about the exhibition, click here.
In the opening section of Gloria Anzaldúa’s seminal text Borderlands, “The Homeland,” she refers to a border as a “dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge… a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition."  In making the body of work presented in this exhibition, Lauren Moya Ford too traveled to the U.S-Mexico border, to experience “the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country—a border culture."  Although her own family history includes undocumented border crossings across the Rio Grande, Lauren’s travels were not a homecoming gesture; there was no familiarity or wave of nostalgia. Rather, Lauren works through a practice of geographic displacement—she comes to the Sabal Palm Sanctuary in Brownsville, Texas as a visitor, a stranger. This position as outsider is one Lauren finds illustrative of the space in which she makes art. Citing her own recent past, during which she has moved and traveled a dozen times in the last decade, her trip to Brownsville functioned not as a return, but to place herself into another context in order to respond. Like Anzaldúa, she is enraptured with the “third country”—the blossoming of the interstitial, the blending of language, culture, identity, and the way that the natural landscape signifies and supports this heterogeneity.
In permaculture, the edge or the boundary between two elements is of particular importance. Douglas Barnes writes, “The edge is where the action takes place. Fish congregate around structures in a lake and not at some neutral middle point in a lake (if they do, it is always around a temperature boundary). Deciduous trees generally lose their leaves from the outside edges first where the wind gets at them and knocks them loose. The nutrients from your food are absorbed into your body via the stomach wall and intestinal walls – ie. an edge.”  The edge effect is used in natural landscape design to take advantage of the increased diversity and productivity at the border of two adjacent ecosystems. At the edge of two overlapping zones, you not only find species of plants and animals from both ecosystems, but also unique species that are “specially adapted to the conditions of the transition zone between the two edges.”  Lauren’s interest in the natural spaces along the border and the variety and diversity of plants and animals found there leads to her own form of the “edge effect”—the re-envisioning of the border not as divisive, but instead a fruitful space to explore multiplicity. Lauren attempts to construct a personal identity that eschews rigid categories and instead thrives in the border—a mixed, mingled, and hybridized identity as both individual and artist. In “Sound Pieces,” Lauren attempts to follow the lead of University of Chicago's linguistics professor Dr. Alan Yu in pronouncing all of the one hundred sounds found within all languages. Like bits of genetic material, these sounds constitute the building blocks for all verbal communication. Along the border, the edge effect applies here too—as Lauren writes in “A Tension,” the accompanying publication to this exhibition, “Sometimes two languages come into such frequent contact that words from one are incorporated into the other…sometimes languages so insistently cohabitate that words used frequently where both languages meet morph.” Language, like nature, signifies plurality, overlap, and sharing, which supersedes both physical and geopolitical boundaries. These allophones, floating disconnected throughout the exhibition space, also speak to the border between articulation and comprehension, utterance and meaning. It leads back to the experience of the foreigner in a strange land, finding small pleasure in cognates, or grappling with those shared one hundred sounds, some of which can’t quite roll off the tongue.
While nature thrives along border spaces, the choice of the Sabal Palm Sanctuary as the site for “Videodanza” and “Border Fence” juxtaposes the freedom and radical democracy of “the natural” with the way that it is inscribed within a national imaginary. Juanita Sundberg and Bonnie Kaserman in their chapter “Cactus Carvings and Desert Defecations: Narrating Exclusions through Nature in the United States-Mexico Borderlands,” interrogate nature as a metonym for the American nation and national heritage. As the first nation-state to designate protected natural areas, “In the United States, nationally designated protected areas have been important sites through which the state narrates the nation, thereby defining an imagined community with a shared history.” Utilizing Benedict Anderson’s conception of an imagined community as a means of perpetuating ideology, Sundberg and Kaserman find that “Indeed, in the early decades of the twentieth century, the preservation movement linked the protection of wilderness areas to the protection of a “superior” Anglo-American heritage and hegemonic position in the nation…As such, narrative linking national belonging to nature were inscribed with exclusions.” In “Border Fence”, Lauren’s poetic motions are punctuated by the stark echo of the tall black posts that make up the fence separating U.S. from Mexico, or as Anzaldúa posits, defining “the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them.” The mirror she holds both projects and reflects, allowing Lauren to appear to herself as occupying one side of the fence as we, the spectator, watch her firmly remain on the other. (In fact not the other—rather the safe, the us.) In “Videodanza Frontera,” the dual perspectives again allow for a projection that permeates boundaries by allowing for a simultaneous here and there, but also alludes to surveillance, ever-present at the border and necessary to for the protection of America’s claim to border areas as scripted and coded within the national imaginary. A tribute to Pola Weiss, a Mexican video artist who danced in public plazas filming her surroundings, which played back in real time nearby, “Videodanza” reaches across time and place, as to continue that dialogue.
We cannot speak of borders without also speaking of them as means of exclusion, wrapped up in the geopolitical. We cannot speak of borders without recognizing them as the site of systematic violence that follows the discourse of here and there, us and them. By locating herself as an outsider, Lauren recognizes her own distance from this violence, and positions herself with intention, as not to speak for those experiences outside her own. It is a personal project in that her raw materials are her history, her past, her culture, and her identity, but it offers an intervention to reimagine borders not as boundaries, but as porous thresholds. When displacing oneself, when traveling as a stranger or as a visitor, you can circumscribe the familiar, wrapping that border tightly around yourself and only letting in what is already known and comfortable. But that does not make for much of a trip, and hardly constitutes “broadening one’s horizons.” Alternatively, you can open yourself into a membrane, letting in that which is unfamiliar, foreign, or different, allowing yourself to be open, impressionable, malleable, humble. It is in this unsettling of the self that Lauren finds fertile ground for art-making: almost all of the vignettes in “A Tension,” entitled “Scenes from A Border,” involve footprints into new geographies, accompanied by some sort of trauma—sickness, death, loss, or even just the loneliness of being in a strange place.
The shop windows lining Brownsville’s sleepy yet colorful streets, and Lauren’s use of mirrors and reflection in her work, echo this idea of the threshold. Glass is a permeable border. It lets in and out; it allows for visibility—to see and be seen. The shop windows demonstrate their own edge effect—nonstick pans next to tire rims, bamboo shoots next to Homecoming mums, coffeemakers with clocks and fishing line. In “Sign Language,” here too identity is flexible—there is no need to choose between being a cell phone repair shop or a home goods supplier; it is possible to be many things without conflict or hierarchy.
For this exhibition too, Lauren is a visitor, as we all are. Using this unoccupied, abandoned space as the site for her installation, she re-enacts this act of displacement. No one is home here—we are all the stranger. And, it too sits on a border. As Jamal Cyrus’s work “A Jackson in Your House” alludes to, the historic Axelrad house sits on a border between Third Ward and Midtown, and reflects the power of boundaries in defining a space. Travel is one kind of geographic movement, but there is another kind of displacement, one that comes from forces that push out, past the border that has redefined “us” and “them.” The landscape presented in Justin Boyd’s sound recordings also present the site as a multi-layered point of exchange. Listening out of the second-story window overlooking the intersection of Alabama and Almeda, Justin was able to eavesdrop on the stopped cars—we hear the edge effect in action.
In her essay “Decolonizing Postcolonial Rhetoric,” Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodriguez beautifully describes Gloria Anzaldúa’s epistemological approach: “Border thinking occurs where phenomena collide as instead of perpetuating the divide, it embraces the crossing, the living on multiple shores.” In this exhibition, Lauren situates us at the meeting point of several borders—of space, place, identity, language, culture—so that we can feel these forces collide. In this, she shares Anzaldúa’s project of creating a new mythos, “a change in the way we perceive reality, the way we see ourselves, and the ways we behave.”  We are invited as viewers to enter into the dreamscapes of her drawings, or the very real places of her video works, to remain in the in-between, in the border spaces.
 Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands: The New Mestiza = La Frontera. 4th ed. San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 2012, 25.
 Douglas Barnes, "Some Thoughts on Edge." Permaculture Reflections. EcoEdge Design Ltd., 3 Feb. 2005. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
 "10. Edge Effect." Deep Green Permaculture. N.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
 Juanita Sundberg and Bonnie Kaserman, “Cactus Carvings and Desert Defecations: Narrating Exclusion through Nature in the United States-Mexico Borderlands,” accessed via juanitasundberg.wordpress.com, 5.
 Anzaldúa, 25.
 Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodriguez, “Decolonizing Postcolonial Rhetoric,” Decolonizing European Sociology: Transdisciplinary Approaches, Ed. Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodriguez, Manuela Boatcă and Sérgio Costa. Farnham, England: Ashgate Pub., 2010, 61.
 Anzaldúa, 102.