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Performing the Border
A film by Ursula Biemann
Switzerland/Mexico, 1999, 42 minutes, Color, DVD, Subtitled
Order No. W00644
A video essay set in the Mexican-U.S. border town of Ciudad Juarez, where U.S. multinational corporations assemble electronic and digital equipment just across from El Paso, Texas. This imaginative, experimental work investigates the growing feminization of the global economy and its impact on Mexican women living and working in the area. Looking at the border as both a discursive and material space, the film explores the sexualization of the border region through labor division, prostitution, the expression of female desires in the entertainment industry, and sexual violence in the public sphere. Candid interviews with Mexican women factory and sex workers, as well as activists and journalists, are combined with scripted voiceover analysis, screen text, scenes and sounds recorded on site, and found footage to give new insights into the gendered conditions inscribed by the high-tech industry at its low-wage end.


Biennale of the Image in Movement, St. Gervais, Geneva, Palmeres Award

  • Documentary Video and Film Festival, Kassel
  • Werkleitz Festival, Netherlands
  • Govett-Brester Art Gallery, New Zealand
  • Women in the Director's Chair Film and Video Festival
  • InSITE and L.A. Freewaves, Los Angeles
  • Manifesta 3, European Biennial of Contemporary Art
  • Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY
  • Films de Femmes, Créteil

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    "[This] video skillfully captures processes of exploitation in its gendered, sexualized, and racialized forms, together with a sophisticated epistemological interrogation about how knowledge of the "border" is produced, performed, and materialized."
    Marjolein van der Veen
    Wellesley College

    "...both a criticism of pancapitalism and an attempt in a discursive way to establish what the possibilities are for individual female lives in this cyborg world of labour."
    Yvonne Volkart
    n. paradoxa

    "To see this film is to see an outrageous scandal that has been swept aside; fortunately, now it is kept alive in this intriguing documentary."
    Lourdes Portillo

    "A provocative plea against the silent blindness to women's plight in a Mexican border town shaped by trans-national manufacturers. Biemann uses the camera as a a beam of light to illuminate tacit injustice."
    Mara Alper
    Media Artist/Asst. Professor, Ithaca College

    "A compelling documentary...beautifully weaves the voices of activists, intellectuals, and workers."
    Terry Brown
    Feminist Collections

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    Performing the Border is included in the following Special Collections.
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    Ursula Biemann's Website
    Contains art and curatorial projects, books, videos and texts by Biemann on gender and geography.

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WMM offers film collections on a variety of specific subject areas, including the collections VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Ending the Silence, BODY IMAGE, and AFRICAN-AMERICAN: Celebrate the Lives of African-American Women.

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Women Make Movies is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitiates the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and about women. contact us