Another project from the Rice University final thesis reviews that I helped to jury back in January is Richie Gelles's project ¡SUPER NAFTA LAND!. That project imagines a kind of Mad Max salvage economy, made up of equal parts post-industrial subculture and bioengineered agri-futurism, set along the US/Mexico border. Think of it as the sci-fi-inflected spatio-cultural wake of the North American Free Trade Agreement (or NAFTA) – falling somewhere between a new, continent-spanning red light district and a super-ranch run by Al Jourgensen.
This border region is "a dynamic, hybridized, and rapidly growing regional zone," Gelles writes, "known as 'Amexica' or the 'third space.'" He continues, outlining the broader political intentions of the project:
The emergence and potential of this "third space" as an economic engine and potential immigration buffer has been jeopardized by US policies towards Mexico such as the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which insists on understanding the border as a line, rather than its reality as a blurred zone of transition. This project proposes building a thickened, connective infrastructural corridor landscape to unite the sister cities (in place of the divisive 700 miles of fence currently under construction by the US government) and generate the resources and conditions for an independent, neutral border nation to emerge.
The result is ¡SUPER NAFTA LAND!, "a giant self-sufficient artificial landscapegrowing out of the border," its infrastructure consisting of "a modular system of production pods to generate enough food, water, and energy for the entire border population." Awesomely, Gelles's vision of an Estado de la Tierra and an Estado del Aireincludes linked megastructures assembled for the purpose of aeroponic gardening.
It's the borderzone as micronation. Read a bit more about the project through Gelles's Flickr set – or, even better, stop by his Tumblr site for further updates. For what it's worth, ¡SUPER NAFTA LAND! could easily become a much larger, long term research project, similar to Fernando Romero's Hyperborder; I'll be interested to see where Gelles might take this.
(¡SUPER NAFTA LAND! was produced at Rice University under the direction of Carlos Jimenez. Thesis advisors were Eva Franch Gilabert and Fares El Dahdah; thesis readers were John Casbarian, Albert Pope, and Fiamma Montezemolo).