This performance is part of a larger body of work titled “Bodies on the Border,” something I've been working on for about ten years that would eventually become the focal point of my doctoral studies and research. It wasn't anything I ever intended to do, but it was something that I kept feeling compelled to come back to. It blossomed into a beautiful project about recontextualizing the narrative of the borderlands and its gente. This performance was particularly special for me because it was the first time I presented any of this material in my hometown of Douglas, Arizona during a binational arts festival. I was very nervous about how it might be received. But it turned out that people were quite interested, and the conversations that emerged as a result of this night's performance were really special and really gave me the traction I needed to continue this work.
Douglas is situated on the border, directly across from Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, a place in which many of Douglas's inhabitants have deep roots and connections. This festival was really special because there are artistic events of many different mediums happening on both sides of the border. This area has a complex relationship with art. Due to the cultural impact of the border, many artistic pursuits must be set aside while people seek opportunities that seemingly align with the "American dream”; opportunities that will lead to STEM education, financial stability, homeownership, citizenship, and general cultural access. All of this, paired with the continuous militarization of the border and the recent effects of COVID, makes the organizational logistics for a happening like this quite challenging. This occasion was really a feat, and it meant a lot to the community to come together under the premise of art making and sharing. I believe this is a turning point for our community. Through the new artistic rhetoric generated by these sorts of events, vital voices are being unmuted.
Multiple texts are heard throughout the performance. There is a poem called "Body on the Border" by a southeast Los Angeles community organizer and poet Eric Eztli, recited by a community member. Parallel to that are texts that came from informal meetings with community members, often over food or drinks or any organic communal gathering particular to that area. They generously shared intimate and meaningful stories that eventually became commentaries on the complex cultural context surrounding the border, and with their permission, I sampled those recordings. In addition to the text there are field recordings indicative of the sonic ecology inherent to that area. Every sound you hear comes from my home.
Jonathan Rodriguez is an interdisciplinary artist who works with composition/sound design and percussion in a diverse range of spaces. While his art engages dance, film, ethnography, and improvisation, he can also be found playing drums in a metal band or jazz combo in local pubs. Rodriguez holds degrees in History/Spanish and percussion performance from Millikin University, a master's in performance from the University of New Mexico, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Performance from the University of Washington.
New Music/Research Presents² is a new series for the PAS Rhythm! Scene blog. This is a continuation of the New Music/Research committee’s curatorial work for PASIC and aims to highlight the work of up-and-coming percussionists (video or audio recordings, new compositions, and research). If you would like to be featured, please submit a downloadable link of your work via this form: forms.gle/f6Ttf8fnbUfWk5UD6.