This project, titled 'Ten, Twenty-six and 1 Postcards From The Canadian-American Border' has roots in pop-art and conceptual documentary photography. In a similar vein to some of the work of Dan Graham, Alan Sekula and Ed Ruscha, I documented the first few miles of the Canadian-American border.
The topic of the border has become increasingly important with the confluence of increasing globalization of trade and the increasing desire (especially by Americans) for a sense of security. Immigration policy is currently at the forefront of American policy making and the life of those who are required to interact with its borders find their environment in near-constant flux. While the majority of focus is on America’s southern border with Mexico, the Canadian border has its own set of problems. America and Canada are considerably closer, culturally and the boundary between them is historically loose. Due to this, communities living in close proximity to the border are more interconnected than they might be in the south. Now, as security measures increase, the relationship between communities of close geographical and cultural natures is becoming increasingly conflicted. Country lanes and city parks are monitored by 24 hour security surveillance while only a hedge or a sidewalk may separate them. In other areas, only a back yard or wooded marsh separates the two. The photographs of this project document some areas of subtle conflict on this border area.
The documentation of the locations is presented as a postcard format. This was derived in part from Ruscha’s 26 Gasoline Stations. The visual banality of most of the locations, the titling and the book format echo his pop-art photographs. The title’s similarity references the locus of the attention now given the border in the signing of the American Patriot Act on October 26th, 2001 (it also seemed to fit with the, perhaps over-analysis of Ruscha’s title as reference to the stations of the cross by Dave Hickey. The overtly polemical political stance in attaching the Patriot Act to the ironies inherent in these images of border security is influenced by Hickey's sincere critique.) The project is close to Graham’s Houses for America in its aesthetic as well. This banality creates some irony in presenting the images in what would be generally a lush, glossy, visually attractive image. The scripted logo, a common postcard feature that promotes the depicted location, creates some rather sarcastic ironies as well. The order of the images, as a sort of narrative working from west to east and as depicted by the markers on the cover image follows the narrative strategies suggested by Sekula. In a reading by Steve Edwards on conceptual photography he says of Sekula’s Fish Story that,
The idea of ‘sequential montage’ is at the centre of Fish Story. These pictures are not intended to be viewed as single images, but as carefully edited narrative sequences. Sekula’s response to Brechtian arguments for construction, or the set-up, was to create picture sequences that call attention to the editing process while keeping a distance from the fashionably staged shot. (171)
Looking back to the subversive postcard image of the ideal, its wide
intended audience and the banal images here, in Art Since 1900 critic Michael
Warner is quoted as saying, “The mass subject cannot have a body except
the body it witnesses.” I think this quote, in considering the topic
and the nature of viewers here (buyers, recipients, residents, border security,
surveillance, etc.) applies well. The blending here of these forms of conceptual
documentary and pop-art presentation filters the relationship of the Canadian
and American communities depicted.