Ursula Biemann, 1999 43 min.
A video essay set in the Mexican-US border town Ciudad Juarez, where the U.S. industries assemble their electronic and digital equipment, located right across from El Paso, Texas. It is a place of unstable identity, resulting from migration to a geography characterized by hostile desert, and a border that cannot be transgressed. The border is discussed as a discursive construction articulated through the crossing of people and the power relation of the two nations.
Adolescent girls come from central Mexico to the border to start a life from scratch. Performing the border addresses the choices they have, the dangers, the fragility of their new situation caught in an ambivalent world between working in high technology factories and a life in the slums.Their experience charts the feminization of international labor of the information society.
Sex work is a major trade in this border town. Juana, a former prostitute from Torreon, gives us her perspective on the transformations of the trade. There are crossovers with the Maquila women who need to complement their income on weekends with prostitution. On the other hand, the reversal of income pattern is obvious in the nightclubs, where the entertainment is catering mainly to young women with male shows. Relationship patterns are being remapped quite drastically on the border.
The rapid modernization of the town laid ground for another urban phenomena: serial killings. Since 1993, close to 150 young women have been raped and killed in Juarez according to the same pattern.The video brings the compulsive, repetitive character of the crimes in relation with the mass technologies (registration, identification and simulation) and looks at the entanglement between intimacy and technology in the setting. The border is presented as a metaphor for marginalisation and the artificial maintenance of subjective boundaries at a moment when the distinctions between body and machine, between reproduction and production, between female and male have become more fluid than ever.