This piece explored the tension between assimilation and ethnic identity, particularly pertaining to Mexican-descent Americans. A cabinet hung against the wall, with diamond screen (steel fence material) covering the front of the cabinet, with a small plaque is attached, centered on the screen. It reads: “Variety is the Spice of Life.” The cabinet was filled with cilantro, and two telephone receivers hung on the wall connected to the cabinet. The audio played through the receivers includes statements made by Mexican-descent Americans, commentaries on their acculturation and assimilation into the dominant culture. We examined the extent to which an individual’s ethnic identity must be compromised in order to succeed in this society. We drew on common prison metaphors to highlight how Mexican culture is “held in check,” as often telephones are used to facilitate communication between prisoner and visitor. The diamond screen mimiced the Mexican-American border, often metaphorically referred to as a floodgate keeping back the tidal wave of immigrants.
Media: display case, sound mix, audio CD player, headphones, steel fencing, cilantro, signage
Location: Artists Respond to Prop 187, New College, San Francisco, CA