Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pipelines and Borderlines


Artists from the United States, Mexico and Canada have formed a grassroots collaboration to create artwork to spread awareness of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), what the Bush administration calls "NAFTA-PLUS", an umbrella for some 300 joint corporate and government initiatives affecting all three countries. This artwork is included in: Pipelines and Borderlines a tri-national political print portfolio that will be on exhibit at the Oak Park Public Library from October 2 through October 30, with a reception on Sunday, October 12th from 2 to 5:30 p.m. A talk by one of the artists, René Arceo, will be presented that day at 4 p.m.


"Sed en lo Profundo" (Deep Thirst). Print by Gabriel Trinidad.

The curator of this project is printmaker, Beverly Keys, a member of Expressions Graphics in Oak Park and an artist with a passion for politics. One afternoon, while listening to her favorite public radio show, her interest was piqued. She learned that the SPP was formed in 2005 when the presidents of the United States and Mexico and the prime minister of Canada met at the behest of 30 corporations (10 from each country). They formed a covert partnership and set an agenda free of any public input.

“They claim this agenda would expand economic opportunities for the people of North America, but these initiatives adversely affect the public health, labor relations, environment and other dimensions of the lives of everyone living on this continent! ” exclaims Keys. “And democracy is at stake here!”

Motivated by passion, Keys recruited 19 artists from the three countries, many who are also members of Expressions Graphics. Keys asked each to create a print edition focusing on two of the initiatives that she found of particular threat to global health and human rights. One is the Oil Sands Project, the largest surface mining operation in the world. A pipeline, starting in Alberta, Canada, will run mostly to US refineries, including the local British Petroleum (BP) refinery in Whiting Indiana. This could threaten the health of millions of people that depend on Lake Michigan for drinking water. The amount of ammonia released into the lake will increase three fold, which would mean dumping an average of 3822 lbs of ammonia per day.


"Lucha por el Petróleo". Print by Nicolás De Jesús.

The second initiative is an Automated Targeting System that integrates the United States “no-fly” list into a single North American database. This system assigns every person flying in and out of the United States a risk assessment score. The system is based on government databases that are full of errors. The list includes preschoolers and one U.S. Senator. Furthermore, no one has access to find out what their score is or any right to challenge it.

The result of the artists’ efforts is 35 portfolios consisting of 21 political prints (two of the artists created two prints) that will travel to different venues throughout North America. The first exhibitions will be presented at the Oak Park Public Library in Illinois and in Acapulco Mexico. The following exhibition is scheduled in early 2009 at Alberta Printmakers in Calgary.

One of the participating U.S. artists, René Arceo, will give a talk at the exhibit’s opening reception about the history of printmaking and politics in Mexico. Arceo is an internationally exhibited artist with solo shows in France, Mexico, Poland and the U.S. to his credit. He also has extensive curatorial experience and advised Keys on this project.


"Water Water". Print by Heather Huston.

The artists in the portfolio are: René Arceo, Marnie Blair, Nicolás De Jesús, Javier Lara Diaz, Steve Fisher, Carol Friedle, Baltazar Godoy, Heather Huston, Beverly Keys, Eveline Kolijn, Jeff Abbey Maldonado, Jesús Orlando Martinez, Michael McGovern, Laura Myntti, MaryEllen Ponsford, Janet Schill, Gabriel Trinidad,Victor Juarez Vasquez and John Weber.

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