View the 2012 Distinguished Lecture with Coco Fusco video
Immigration has been at the center of a national debate which suggests that it is primarily a matter of protecting borders and controlling the entry of “aliens.” Other aspects of immigration are typically ignored; the question of who gets in and who we keep out generally remains overlooked. What about those would-be immigrants who try but never make it to the United States?
Signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in 2010, SB 1070 is designed to give the state of Arizona and its law enforcement officers more power to detain and arrest those they believe to be illegal immigrants. Oral arguments for and against SB 1070 went before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 25. The decision will determine the constitutionality of the law, and will greatly impact who can enter Arizona’s borders.
On Thursday, March 8, Coco Fusco, the 2012 IHR Distinguished Lecturer, presented “Migration Interrupted: Rights, Freedom, and the Controversy over U.S. Immigration Policy.” Coco spoke on the other side of immigration—those who don’t make it to the U.S. because of interference by the U.S. government or their home government.
Fusco is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and the Director of Intermedia Initiatives at Parsons The New School for Design. She has performed, lectured, exhibited and curated around the world since 1988.
In the performative lecture, Fusco invites us to consider how U.S. immigration policy can acknowledge our nation’s social ethos, which celebrates the individual’s capacity for self-improvement and personal transformation. She exposes the contradictions implicit in Americans’ moral embrace of the rights of human beings to choose their domiciles and seek a better life, on the one hand, and their political demands for the strict control of borders on the other. Fusco asks, “How much of U.S. policy is opportunistic and starkly political, and how much is moral and logical?”
Many of the perceived problems with immigration policy and policy reform use statistics and political rhetoric to frame the story—we are not often asked to personally reflect on the political ramifications. Through personal reflections, Fusco will help us understand what has been missing from the national debate—the experiences of the immigrants trying to come to our shores.
While “anchor baby” is usually a derogatory term referring to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants used to “anchor” the parents in the country, Fusco proudly describes herself as an “anchor baby.” Fusco’s Cuban mother came to the United States in 1954 and was deported shortly after Fusco was born, but Fusco’s U.S. citizenship allowed her and her mother to return to New York within a matter of weeks.
As she writes in her book “English is Broken Here,” her identification “as a child of diaspora, of the Cold War, of the Civil Rights movement, of the Black Caribbean, of Cuba, and of the United States” has informed her work as both a scholar and performance artist. She combines electronic media and a variety of formats, from staged multi-media performances incorporating large scale projections and closed circuit television to live performances streamed to the internet that invite audiences to take part in a “chat room” and help chart the course of action. Her work is meant to provoke commentary and dialogue; to illuminate the unexplored.
Fusco’s performances and videos, including “Operation Atropos,” “Bare Life Study #1,” and “A Room of One’s Own,” have been presented all over the world, including two Whitney Biennials (2008 and 1993), the Sydney Biennial, the London International Theatre Festival, and more. Her books include English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas (1995), The Bodies that Were Not Ours and Other Writings (2001) and A Field Guide for Female Interrogators (2008).
Fusco received her B.A. in Semiotics from Brown University, her M.A. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University and her Ph.D. in Art and Visual Culture from Middlesex University.
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