Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

A symbol of the Freemasons – the architecturally familiar square and compass – decorates the facade of the hastily shuttered Marciano Art Foundation, formerly the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, on Wilshire Boulevard. The tools, as part of the mysterious Masonic arcana, represent in some interpretations a belief system in which labour is held as an honest universal.

The irony is that foundation founders Maurice and Paul Marciano of Guess fame abruptly closed their museum-cum-tax-haven as visitor-services staff members voted to unionise. An act that left about 70 employees, on Los Angeles minimum wage of $14.25 (£10.83) an hour, out of work.

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In the eyes of the current administration, the U.S.-Mexico border is violent, in crisis, and must be redundantly fortified, concretized, and policed. But architect Teddy Cruz and political theorist Fonna Forman see that southern boundary as an ecological region—a shared territory of cross-border interdependence and exchange. To them, flow, not heated rhetoric, is the defining character of the San Diego–Tijuana crossing. Most obvious are streams of traffic, goods, and people through the point of entry. What goes unseen is the northward flow of waste and toxins, which disregards the jurisdictional boundaries of nationhood, traveling from the informal settlements in Tijuana’s Laurales Canyon via watersheds and tributaries to the Tijuana River estuary in San Diego and out into the Pacific Ocean. 

“The estuary is already a Federal protected zone—NOAA and the EPA are involved, but it has to be thought of as bioregional,” says Forman. “It is a circular system. Informal settlements recycle and repurpose urban waste, then the trash of the informal settlement ends up back in the estuary.” 

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