A Book as a Bridge Across the Mexican Border

On December 18th 2016, as we were waiting for the presidential inauguration, I thought it was the right time for me to make a bridge across the US-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana in Mexico, as an act of protest against the border wall proposed by Donald Trump. Please see this short video documentary by Sara Pettinella.

Some of you may remember the first of my A Book as a Bridge performances on the 2 train in the New York City subway. During November 2015, I traveled from the Bronx to Wall Street and back while sewing a line on an accordion book using a sewing machine.  The performance was made possible by The Center For Book Arts. In June 2016, I made a second Book as a Bridge  from Manhattan to Staten Island on the Ferry, made possible by The New York Transit Museum.  For more information about my book art and performance work please see this interview by Ysabelle Cheung on The Creator’s Project and this Artcritical interview by David Brody

This is is the story of A Book as a Bridge from San Diego to Tijuana:

On Sunday Dec. 18th I had made an appointment with Lyndsay Bloom , a photographer and Kraig Cavanaugh, We met at the bus ticket office and eventually boarded the bus together.
The seats were small and the aisle was tight. After all seats were taken many passengers had to stand and hold on the best they could, the great majority of them were Mexican traveling with family and many heavy bags down in the luggage compartment. When everybody was in and the door had closed I said: “Hello! I am an artist and I would like to make a Book as a Bridge as an act of protest against the wall Trump is planning to build at the Mexican border. I am going to start sewing now on my accordion book and by the time we will get to Tijuana the sewn line will need to stretch from the back of the bus where I am now, to its front, having grown over the US-Mexico border from San Ysidro to Tijuana, making a bridge.” When I finished talking I had a clear realization that the whole bus was on board. Not everybody spoke English but the young translated for the old, and soon everybody understood. The kids started passing from hand to hand the first page, the first one was a beautiful 7/8 year old girl, then a 10 year old boy, then some adults, then more kids, the first page proudly led to the front by a young boy.
My space for operating the machine was extremely tight and often I had to re-thread the machine because of the road’s sharp turns and bumps. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the border because of traffic. There we had to take everything out of the bus, including the machine, dismount and pass all our belongings through the metal detector. Then we were able to board again. I was the last one to dismount the bus because I needed more time then anyone else to pack up, but I was surprised that everyone had waited for me to be the first to re-board the bus, so I could choose the best seat.

Back on the bus, I tried to set up the machine for sewing but I realized I had a problem. The needle threader had been bumped, probably at the border and I could no longer use it. I had to thread it by hand, but because of my cramped quarters, I literally could not get my head close enough to the needle see where to push the thread. Getting very nervous after a few unsuccessful tries, I turned around and I asked two ladies to please help me out. The youngest one understood, and by leaning over her friend got close enough to the machine to be able to carefully pass the thread through the needle for me. Then we were off, sewing again up to our destination in Tijuana. The trip, including the stop at the border took about 40 minutes, coming back to the States took us about four hours. But that’s another story…

Short video documentary about the performance by Sara Pettinella

Photos by Lyndsay Bloom and Kraig Cavanaugh