November 17, 2006

La Linea Collective, Tijuana Poetry by Way of Phone Lines

By Raymond R. Beltran

San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Arts’ former education curator, Monica Garza, was looking for new and innovative conduits between the community and the arts. Having ignored the abundance of incoming calls at the museum for some time, the light finally flickered on: phone lines.

“We wanted to introduce San Diego to the voices of Tijuana, and with all the calls we were receiving during the day, we thought, ‘We’re un-derutilizing the phone system here,’” says Garza.

But not to worry, poets won’t be cold calling San Diegans reciting poems in mid bite during supper hours. MCASD has created a phone system called Poem Lines on Phone Lines leading listeners to the world of Tijuana poetry.

From now until March 2007, poetry aficionados who can’t make it out to readings can simply call the museum and have a previously recorded piece of art recited on demand. Sound like an infom-ercial? Yes, but this isn’t the kind of product the mainstream bigwigs are tripping over to get a piece of.

The selected artists currently exhibited are the Tijuana-based, feminist art collective, La Linea (The Border).

If you were living in Tijuana a couple years back, then yes, you probably would have received a call from these poets, who apply the art of guerilla tactics when they exhibit their work. ‘Interventions’ is what they call their style.

Poem Lines fits right up their alley, promoting art to the everyday mundane surroundings of life in innovative ways.

They began as publishers of the self titled journal La Linea in 2002 in response to what they say is a patriarchal arts community in México, opening up opportunities for woman to display their work. They have since then turned significant localities in Tijuana into stages for poetic practice.

“We try to take a place and give it a new sensation, to make people think about it differently,” says Abril Castro, a member of La Linea and the visual arts coordinator at the Centro Cultural (CECUT) in Tijuana. “The idea is to try and see how a regular space can become a poetry space. Sometimes you ignore the symbols of the places you’re walking.”

For example, along the south side of Tijuana’s riverbed, now commonly known as the upscale neighborhood Zona Río, there used0 to be a destitute neighborhood of makeshift dwellings called Cartolandia (Land of Cardboard). There isn’t many resources to find out about the former shantytown, but Castro remembers the place being flushed out when dams were opened by the city in the neighboring town of La Presa in 1980. Many of Tijuana’s poor were flushed from one of the only places they could create shelter.

Recently, La Linea members stuck yellow caution tape along the corrugated metal wall, now surrounding Zona Río, printed with poetry in memory of the 1980 incident. The act was so subtle, one might have driven past it without noticing the words “Esta ciudad se mete entre las uñas y los dientes (This city gets between the fingernails and the teeth). Tijuana es el arma, la bala y la carne (Tijuana is the weapon, the bullet and the flesh).”

In that sense, you may be ignoring the symbols of things you’re using for that matter, because now phone lines, as fixed as they are into the fabric of daily life, have become channels themselves to poetry movements like La Linea’s.

Each member of the collective has a month long run. October began with Kara Lynch’s Me Quemo followed by Abril Castro, whose poem is currently available on Phone Lines.

The collective includes a handful of other international women writers, Lorena Mancilla, Margarita Valencia Triana, and Jenny Donovan.

“The Linea Collective was founded, originally, to create a space and a publishing press where women’s artistic work would be displayed from our community and from any other community in the world,” replied Margarita Triana, a La Linea co-founder who’s currently studying in Madrid. “If you are a woman, it is difficult to work in the field of the arts in the majority of the countries in this world. In fact, this paradox is more evident in industrial countries where the majority assumes and presumes an equality […] it stays in theory plain, and it does not reflect in the true reality.”

They’ve been featured at such galleries as Voz Alta in Downtown San Diego, with organizations like El Puente in Chula Vista, the Centro Cultural de Rosarito and the CECUT in Tijuana. They’ve also been published in journals like Tijuana’s Bulbo Press and Velocidad Crítica in Monterrey, Nuevo León.

Poem Lines on Phone Lines will be available until March 2007 and is accompanying the exhibit Transactions: Contemporary Latin American and Latino Art.

To hear La Linea collective, dial (858) 454-3541, extension 9.

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