Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab

Ricardo Dominguez (United States, born 1959)
Amy Sara Carroll (United States, born 1967)
Brett Stalbaum (United States, born 1966)
Micha Cárdenas (United States, born 1977)
Elle Mehrmand (United States, born 1980)

The “artivist” collective Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab consists of Ricardo Dominguez, Amy Sara Carroll, Brett Stalbaum, Micha Cárdenas, and Elle Mehrmand, among others. While operating in the realms of experimental theater, concrete poetry, new media, and hacktivism, they produce projects that enact “electronic civil disobedience” and “virtual sit-ins.” Among their influences are German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin, the American civil rights movement, and Mexican Zapatista revolutionary communities. With the Transborder Immigrant Tool, the artists respond to the militarization and industrialization of the U.S.-Mexico border from the mid-1990s onward. They also intervene into the humanitarian crisis of mass migrant deaths largely ignored by U.S. policy. They acknowledged perspectives on the Cold War at the onset of their project: “When the Berlin Wall fell, official reports claimed that [over] ninety-eight people in total died trying to cross from East to West Berlin.

Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab
The Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT), 2009
Installation at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, 2015
Collection of the Artists
Photograph by Lisa Boughter

In contrast, local and international nongovernmental organizations estimate that 10,000 people to date have perished attempting to cross the Mexico-U.S. border.” In theory, the Transborder Immigrant Tool features multi-lingual poetry and GPS-tags on disposable cellular phones to identify water stations for migrants on GSM mobile networks. Before the project could be fully deployed, right wing media outlets publicized the tool by widely decrying it. The result was an investigation of the project and its participants, some of whom were University of California, San Diego professors targeted at the request of three Republican U.S. Congressional representatives. The artists were never charged with any wrongdoing. The Transborder Immigrant Tool exists as a series of semi-functional phones, coded with GPS stylings, images, and poetry in multiple languages.

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