February 5, 2023

New Mexico’s fronteristxs Collective was awarded $30,000 The house of anesthesia, an experimental runway performance with non-gendered looks designed to disrupt surveillance technologies in Albuquerque, a city with one of the highest police brutality rates in the United States. The grant comes from the MAP Fund, the longest-running private source of funding for new performance work, investing in performing artists and their work as a critical foundation for imagining and helping to shape a more just and vibrant society.

fronteristxs is a New Mexico artist collective working to end migrant detention, abolish the industrial prison complex, and envision and fight for a world of liberation for all. The fronteristxs collective consists of Szu-Han Ho, Associate Professor of Arts and Ecology at the University of New Mexico, Bernadine Hernández, Associate Professor of English at UNM, and UNM graduates Hazel Batrezchavez and Martín Wannam, who are graduating in 2020 with their Masters of Fine Arts received.

House of An-Asthetic (HOAA) uses fashion as a tool to break through the collective deafness to the surveillance and surveillance we experience in everyday spaces, Ho explained. HOAA explores the intersections of fashion, race, gender, sexuality, ability , policing and capitalism to build life-affirming communities through an abolitionist framework.

A video created by the group examines the Albuquerque Police Department’s community surveillance and notes why they object: “Increased community surveillance is leading to increased encounters between residents and the police, and as we know too well is leading to more Police encounters with people of color cause more injuries and deaths. The use of surveillance technology by law enforcement agencies is being unleashed overwhelmingly against communities of color. Increased surveillance of communities of color will turn our world into an open air prison. Worse, it will put residents at extreme risk as all police encounters begin surveillance.”

Some mass surveillance tools used by the police include surveillance planes with powerful cameras; facial recognition security cameras that can track people in public and are far more likely to misidentify people of color; cell-site simulators that use cell phones to locate people and track their movements; automatic license plate readers for tracking drivers; Smart virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa, ECHO, Dot, Google Assistant, Nest and Siri, devices that record and overhear conversations; Software that can be used to turn on computer or smartphone cameras or microphones without being detected, for use by private hackers as well as the FBI, law enforcement agencies, and others.

In the US, the current state of militarized policing is blurring the lines between private and public, criminal and innocent, and human and less than human.

“We live in a world where we stand up for surveillance technologies every day. HOAA takes the form of an experimental runway show featuring 12 non-gendered looks that cater to and disrupt surveillance technology such as facial recognition software. There is no blueprint for the abolitionist world we seek to build, but the House of Anesthesia is an enactment of that world that embraces glamor and defiant exuberance to counteract the fear and violence created by the current police surveillance state,” said Ho .

MAP Fund grantees use jazz, ghost stories, clowning, Butoh (Japanese dance), puppetry, Bharatanatyam (Indian dance), music theater, folkloric (Mexican dance) and more to explore connections between themes such as Japanese cultural eradication and consumer culture or big tech vulture capitalism and border imperialism. They lead the audience into an immigrant home in Chicago; a public water-and-fire ceremony in a small Pennsylvania town; and a historic intervention at the former home of Esek Hopkins, commander of the slave ship Sally, in Providence. The grantees use their in-depth knowledge to advance collective thinking and answer questions about how society in Latin American countries might address environmental justice issues; the medical racism faced by black women; and societal myths about aging. They envision better worlds – using their projects to call out again and again for peace, calm, love, healing, space, connection and joy.

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