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ASU's borderlands art series grows legacy

'Performance in the Borderlands' enters 13th season with focus on women's rights
ASU Now will follow project's installments, plays, discussions through May
September 13, 2016

Artists say work engages community, has potential to drive social change

In the coming weeks and months, desolate sections near the U.S.-Mexico line will transform into arthouses, theaters and classrooms as Arizona State University brings together a collection of artists to focus their talents on borderland issues.

An initiative of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ School of Film, Dance and Theatre, the 13th season of “Performance in the Borderlands” got underway Tuesday with a panel of prominent artists discussing the works’ scope, impact and potential to drive social and political change.

The planned plays, installations and workshops are part of ASU’s cross-disciplinary approach to expanding access, addressing problems and taking responsibility for the well-being of the communities it serves. ASU Now will follow the initiative to document the ways it engages the region and its people.

“We think of borders not just in terms of the physical demographic of a wall in southern Arizona, but in terms of these complicated identity issues and structures,” said Mary Stephens, producing director for “Performance in the Borderlands.”

“Our approach is to think of the borderlands as a conceptual space where people are meeting, ideas are exchanged and as a methodology for life. Really good art takes your everyday perceptions and kind of twists it so that you can see it in a different way.”

As it has done since 2003, the art series will bring together local, national and international artists, ensembles and theater groups. Past invitees have been from Arizona, California, Mexico, Peru and Argentina, and their work has explored topics including immigration, social justice, race, religion, sexual orientation and women’s rights.

Memorable borderlands installations have included a play in the Desert Valley Rock Center reserve, a queer Chicana monologue on body image and politics, and a mural that momentarily erased the border in Douglas, Arizona.

"We've had so much positive response," Stephens said. She said the project aims to support the work of artists and and leaders in the communities they serve, adding "It's not only been positive, but catalytic because ASU is able to fund artists that these small communities could not normally afford and work with these communities, so they're able to produce an event with an incredible artist of great caliber."  

This year’s theme, “Voices of Power,” examines the role of women of color in the arts and social justice. “My job as curator is to give these amazing women visibility because they’re not just part of, but leading the arts movement in Arizona,” Stephens said.

Martha Gonzalez, a Grammy-winning artist, activist, scholar and the current ASU Gammage guest residency artist, is contributing to the borderlands project as a featured speaker at the introductory discussion.   

Martha Gonzalez

 

She sees the connection between art and social consciousness as inextricable. Through workshops and her Mexican folk band, Quetzal, Gonzalez has engaged communities in critical thought through music. At the same time, she has increased access to health care and educational programs for underserved populations in the Los Angeles area.

“With hypercapitalism as the way we understand it, we tend to think of art as something separate from community and something we buy and sell,” Gonzales said. “Art has always been meant to document and instigate critical thought and bring communities together.”

This year’s borderlands project will include close to 20 activities that will run through May.

The first event of the season included ASU professors Marlon Bailey and Liz Lerman along with Gonzalez. Speakers discussed the creative process, community representation and — as Gonzalez put it — developing a sense of "convivencia," or coexistence.

 

"It means to be with each other," Gonzalez said, "deliberate presence to each other, commitment to each other, dialogue through this art and music. I think that it's extremely important for us as well to instill a sense of 'convivencia' through music and our practices."

 

The rest of the season's lineup features Arizona artists Raji Ganesan, Rashaad Thomas, Leah Marche and Liliana Gomez.

Projects are expected to include an on-site installation and performance at the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area in Phoenix; a DJ scholarship and music activism lecture with Lynee Denise and a bi-national arts residency with solo performance artist Yadira de la Riva, who will travel through Arizona, northern Mexico, the Tohono O’odham Nation and the Sonoran Desert.

“I feel this is our strongest year because we’ll be working with and reaching many communities, especially women,” Stephens said.  

For a list of complete listing of the 2016-2017 season, go here.

 

Top photo: Last year's "Performance in the Borderlands" included painting the U.S.-Mexico border fence to match the sky. Project leaders said it removed an oppressive visual barrier to help create optimism. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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ASU satellite wins 2016 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award


September 13, 2016

ASU’s Space and Terrestrial Robotic Exploration (SpaceTREx) SunCube FemtoSat and the SpaceTREx team, headed by Jekan Thanga, assistant professor with the School of Earth and Space Exploration, have won the Popular Mechanics 2016 Breakthrough Awards in the “Space” category.  

The Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards recognize innovators and products that have dramatically advanced the fields of technology, medicine, space exploration, automotive design, environmental engineering and more. Jekan Thanga (right), assistant professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, worked with a team of students, including graduate aerospace engineering students Mercedes Herreras-Martinez and Aman Chandra, over two years to develop the miniature satellites. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

This is the first time an ASU project has been awarded a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award, beating out MIT, Stanford and Princeton.

The SunCube FemtoSat is a satellite that defines a new standard for a spacecraft. It has a mass of 35 grams, it is tiny — 3 x 3 x 3 cm — and it would cost as little as $1,000 to launch to the International Space Station, or $3,000 as free flier in low Earth orbit.

It is being developed at ASU’s SpaceTREx Laboratory headed by Thanga and ASU students Mercedes Herreras-Martinez, Andrew Warren, Aman Chandra, Laksh Raura and Ravi Nallapu.

The FemtoSat advances a positive vision for the future where space missions are defined not by an elite few, or the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars it costs, but by how they inspire, educate and enable greater access to space.  

“Space exploration can advance rapidly once there is widespread interest, adoption and access by a large fraction of humanity, whose skills and talents are required to bring new and innovative thinking to the most pressing challenges in the field,” Thanga said.

Previous award winners in the “Space” category include the University of Arizona for the Phoenix Lander in 2008, NASA Ames LCROSS Lunar Orbiter and Impactor mission in 2010, NASA JPL’s Mars Exploration Rovers in 2011, NASA JPL’s Voyager Missions (for lifetime achievement) in 2012 and NASA Ames LADEE mission in 2014.

The awardees are featured in the October print edition of Popular Mechanics out in newsstands now and on the Popular Mechanics website.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration

480-965-9345