Tanya Aguiñiga, Metabolizing the Border


Art21 proudly presents this special extended segment as a complement to the “Borderlands” episode from the tenth season of the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” series. Edited to focus on a singular artist narrative, this film contains original material not included in the television broadcast. “Borderlands” premiered in October 2020 on PBS. Watch now on PBS and the PBS Video app: https://www.pbs.org/video/borderlands-4m0kef/

The binational artist Tanya Aguiñiga pushes the power of art to transform the United States-Mexico border from a site of trauma to a creative space for personal healing and collective expression. Reflecting the cultural hybridity and community of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, the artist discusses her upbringing in Tijuana, her training as a furniture and craft designer, and her artistic beginnings with the Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo collective. From her studio, the artist and her team produce objects like jewelry and housewares to fund their social-justice-based projects, workshops, and performances. Aguiñiga returns to the site of one of these projects, titled “Border Quipu,” where she and her team recorded the stories of daily commuters from Tijuana to San Diego. This segment also follows Aguiñiga as she prepares for “Metabolizing the Border,” a performance and personal reckoning with the pain caused by the border wall. The work is a demanding physical feat: the artist walks along the border wall in a glass suit that is designed to break, in order to express the effects of the wall as wounds on her body and to symbolize the struggle of the migrant experience. Aguiñiga demonstrates how art can be both a personal “physical and emotional outlet” and a vehicle to help others “empathize and think about how we’re all connected to each other.”

Learn more about the artist at:

Cite this page as: Art21, "Tanya Aguiñiga, Metabolizing the Border," in Smarthistory, January 6, 2021, accessed July 13, 2024, https://smarthistory.org/tanya-aguiniga-borderlands/.