Transcending Perception is a series of public sculptures designed and created by the artist Josemar Gonzalez, that were selected to form part of San Diego’s NTC’s Installations at the Station, a former US Naval Base. The content for the pieces was generated through a series of participatory workshops led by Diana Cervera and featuring local poets, community leaders, multidisciplinary artists, in collaboration with The AjA Project, a San Diego based organization.
From political cartoons to early cinema, dominant media streams have historically played a central role in crafting normalized perceptions about people and communities of color within the American imagination; furthermore, informing who is considered part of the imagined America and who is deemed other. Transcending Perception was created with the intention of ‘returning the gaze’ on both current and historical representations of those who are often excluded or misrepresented in dominant media.
The sculptures were built between the borderlands of San Diego and Tjuana. Standing at 9 feet tall and lighting up at sunset these portals serve as a metaphor for the idea of an entry point to stories of migration, community, and identity. As the audience walks through the doors, and reads the stories, they are invited to think critically about which doors they have opened and which doors they have closed, whether physically or metaphorically.
The images and stories depicted on the doors center the faces and voices of the collaborating artists and the communities they represent. Creating a monument of love and solidarity among them.
The workshops consisted of a political cartoon gallery walk which showcased newspaper clippings, segregation law, and executive orders. Jim Crow Era Caricatures, EO9066, 1822 Chinese Exclusion Act, and images of Indian Boarding schools, served as analytical departure point for the group to reflect on the role of representation in shaping popular imagination and the inclusion or exclusion of communities of color within the United States both past and present. Through a series of activities, Story Circles and Mirrors and Windows the group reflected on their own lived experiences in relationship to power, struggle inclusion and exclusion. As participants shared they found entry points into the experiences of one another, common ground, and new perspective.
*Story Circles and Mirrors and Windows: Activity developed in the 1960s by John O’ Neal, Gilbert Moses,Denise Nicholas and Doris Derby of the Free Southern Theater.
WHAT YOU DON’T SEE:
The first sight of two smiling faces washing me with
a ray of sunshine when I open my eyes each morning
My love of food but my dislike of being in the kitchen
My life is a mirror of what you see and what I want you to see
You don’t See the artist living through her lens and the writer sharing her passion through words floating on paper.
You don’t see my love of pink roses
You don’t see the palm trees that is home
The chaos and the laughter of my family
My tendency for loving and caring too deeply for the wrong people
The sorrow of not seeing grandmother but hearing her voice inside my head Wishing she was near me or at least pictures I can call memories on my wall shining light in my heart, you don’t see many things.
Such as I am thoughtful and reflective
I can be quiet unless we are familiar
I am observant and believe in the magic of people
I dream of a better world
My mind is constantly brewing in the works
I RETURN THE GAZE UPON
To the people who don’t recognize their ignorance
Who need a taste of how their privilege affects people
Who don’t see the wounds they are opening every time they open their mouths
Blind to the red dripping in their presence because they believe they bleed green and blue Their loud noisy presence they force upon us even when they don’t speak.
DJ KUTTIN KANDI
The doors were not open as they said it would be closed shut, eyes tight
that you looked back at me
heavy was the gaze
when you didnt get to be
the tough one, the rough one
the blue one
glock a nine
cause he held an open bottled one
31 too young
to watch the last breath
of a beaten drum
of the brand
with never returning to the aching of the rice fields
is to know just how deeply colonialism befriended assimilation
at the glass window
finding its way in though
knowing the reflection
from its peak through
the hint of its tyrannical hue
is too much to bare
to carry ---
like rain water in buckets from the top of the mountain
cold it felt; i feel it drippin
as it poured from the top of the head
to the thirst of the body longing the pain
it is then
who am i at this moment
when im asking you to
meet me at the crossroads
where they’ve called me to work
where is this place
I could not be seen
damp and rusty
like a shackling of the spirit from incarceration 25 to life
sentenced into unjust climates
that demanded our backs
be of service to the fossil fuel
the cotton plantations to the tobacco
to the barracks at Uncle Sams
to the transcontinental railroad
to the fields at delano
to the sugar cane and the bananas
to the way i may have never known
what it was like to be held
have we tucked away another dream
closed another door
should we hold such the truth
the white mans burden
savior to the village of luzon
because only God can save us now
we’ve been waiting for
yet time was never yours
along border rules
of concrete xenophobic barricades
meant for the crashing of waves
at the walls of its confinement
seeping to find continuity
because freedom is a water dance
that sweeps over and under you
feet buried to the sand
as it rushes in
to find us at the cadence of liberation
awaiting at the tempo of the last standing rock sing chipping away at the outer shell
anti Blackness be the blueprint
to the white supremacy we be swimmin in capitalism got us diggin the digital gold they be surveilling
Snowden warned us the drones were here
but my Lola was already at the outskirts of the fear as they rode in at the frontier
took them to the horizon
separation is the knowing
of the mighty gripping fear
that this would be that last time
cuz we out here survivin
we out here surviving
I fear the battle
we have journeyed
to cleanse ourselves
what shall happen should we remember dare
to look to the mirror
decontamination of every microaggression stare wiping away every glare
and each time we recollect
they didnt even take notice
to the loudness of our stance
the boisterousness of our past
like thunder splittin tombstones of our ancestors beseeching us to awaken to the knock
they call me,
I see you at the door
I see you
hands towards the home we keepsake
gliding over its iron-clad, immense opening reach as it creeks in its floor-to-ceiling invitation take leap
to its freedom on the other side
for every gaze looked past me
through the wide view
fully swung open in all its truth
at the door
and I return the gaze upon you
I have become
comfortable in the cold shadow
So much that at times
I have hated the warmth of home
I have become accustomed to the isolation
To the limits I am bound to
To having my mouth sewn shut
To living my life in calculated steps
with no room for error
To having each one of my movements decided for me
To the guilt that weighs heavy on my shoulders
To only ever dreaming about
What it is like to belong
I return the gaze upon the marks left
by the constant longing for safety
full of love.
But not the Hallmark card type
Bathroom art sandwiched between
Living & Laughing
Here to make you smile, kind of love.
My love ignites like a molotov
In the face of oppression.
My love is born from resistance.
My love is for my people. My love exists among the people. My love is rooted in the earth that birthed me.
My love is seeking justice for those who died thirsty.
My love is formed in the footsteps of those who keep walking in permanent solidarity.
Arm and arm stretching beyond your border walls.
My love is solidarity.
They call me a threat to their national security.
See, my solidarity looks criminal to the heartless.
So they throw me in chains, shackled and detained
And yet here we are, standing in solidarity regardless.
You see, I stand for the right to lend a hand.
You can say, I stand for the right to take a stand.
You see, the hypocrisy is rich
In all the fearmongering tricks
When it’s those who hold office crying out “invasion!”
And at the same time they got troops lined up at our southern border Firing live rounds and tear gas into a sovereign nation.
Because I can still hear the sounds of the rubber bullets flying I looked down, a child laying
On the ground, her mother crying.
And the blood curdling screams as she believes her daughter’s dying.
Because, you see, that was your government that put that gas in her lungs. Just like it was your government that planted those drugs. And just like it’s your government that’s always blastin’ the slugs That just happen to land in the backs of all the powerful ones.
My love shines bright through the night
Like the torch that set the fire to melt the ICE
That continues to terrorize our gente.
Roxana - Presente.
I am a toffee dusted truth
With a freckle splattered history
I am the message my ancestors sent here in a bottle
I am bowed legs
And straight talk
I am hell fire
To say the least
Diamond in the root
I am southeast.
I am story untold and unfolding
The Ancient scrolls
The pages they try to leave out of the re-telling
Make telephone game of promise
Make Puzzle of policy
Make Pieces of humanity
Cut up like Baartman
See whole as impossibility
I am the back this country made flag of
Striped red to the white meat
White out the blood stains
Sing anthem over the sound of clanging chain
Noose allegiance around our throats from grade K Right hand over broken heart
This land is still cover with trees
That hold stories of black bodies like banner yet wave
I am plantation purged on page
I am freedom papers
Write like ax to chain
I am Inkscape
I am press down and runaway
I am home found in a hopeless place Grandmas hands
Fried chicken wings and cigarettes