Dates2020 - Ongoing
- Locations Ciudad Juárez, El Paso
In 2020, unable to travel to my hometown of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, during the pandemic, I started touring the city on Google Maps. I used this tool to re-explore sites in Ciudad Juárez. With infrequent visits from the Google car and its 9-eyes camera, I often find sites that are frozen in time, many of them captured between 2008 and 2013 in a period known as the War on Drugs. I began to collect these images into a digital archive and taxonomize them as architecture, glitches, militarization, and landscape, among others. To date, the archive has more than 500 images.
Eventually, when I was able to return home, I found myself checking through family photos and found an old keychain photo viewer—a small plastic object one could hold up against light to view a 35mm slide. Inside the viewfinder it was a picture of me and my mother in the circus.
Instead of blowing these images up, I started printing the digital archives as a 35 mm negative and inserted them into a pocket-size viewfinder, showing imagery that resist the typical media representations of the city, which was known as one of the most violent in the world. Lush flowers and trees, children riding bicycles, brightly colored houses and walls, hand painted signs, people working, and local businesses turned the Street View images into an intimate object with the keychain photo viewer. I ask to pay close attention to these sites, and our relation with the border, not through the recycled images of violence that are easily available, but with these other everyday images.
I was born in Juarez, and I chose to revisit familiar neighborhoods, avenues, and streets, showing daily life in the city through the lenses of Google’s equipment, using its own language and therefore its glitches and its artificial intelligence, an A.I. that automatically erases faces, or anything that looks like one. I have mostly avoided capturing violent imagery, though it is impossible to completely prevent the appearance of visuals showing the police, armed people and the remains of a war with a destroyed and abandoned city.