This reflective project was inspired by group efforts of the MFA Public Practice first year students in Camino Verde, Tijuana, B.C. México.
Ni Chana Tijuana unpacked what happened when a group of people enrolled in a Public Practice MFA must, for the first time, develop fieldwork within a community across the border whom they have only previously encountered through theoretical frameworks, methodologies taken from books by specialists, and abstract discussions. What happens when these individuals arrive to that community of flesh and blood, full of knowledges, problems and questions wildly different from their academic abstractions? What types of cross-cultural connections can be created with people who have experienced three decades of issues that are far beyond the understanding of the average social practitioner? Not one or the other, neither here nor there, ‘ni Chana ni Juana’ is an expression used in México to emphasize the ambiguous nature of a given situation. In that spirit, this exposition deals with the contingent relationship between these artists and Camino Verde.
The experiment was inspired by talking with local Camino Verde community leaders, such as Alma Teresa, who stated “Ni nos conocemos los vecinos” (“We don’t even know our neighbors”). Camino Verde has built much of its recent infrastructure with the backing of the community. Yet as that concept was explored beyond the surface, implied or assumed connections presumely binding the neighborhood fell apart. Mario created Getting to Know Your Neighbor: Experiment #1 to explore dialogue as a foundational gesture to allow people to exchange ideas, common notions, and understandings involved in creating community.