Critics’ Picks

Jessica Hankey and Erin Johnson,
Salidas y Entradas Exits and Entrances, (still) 2018,
three-channel video, color, sound, 24 minutes 54 seconds.

El Paso

Jessica Hankey and Erin Johnson

Stanlee & Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts
500 West University Avenue The University of Texas at El Paso
May 31–August 10, 2018

Less than a half mile from the Rubin Center is a newly built section of US border wall, erected beside the Rio Grande, separating El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Given this context and the recent protests against inhumane immigration policies, this superb installation, featuring a three-channel video installation and a single-channel projection, carries extra weight.

Shooting footage at city-run senior recreation centers in El Paso, Jessica Hankey and Erin Johnson conducted workshops (with Gina Sandí-Díaz) wherein the elderly played theater games (à la Viola Spolin and Augusto Boal) and performed stories from one another’s lives. Even without this information, the show’s titular three-channel video is gratifying. Exquisite shots—palm fronds against blue sky, a guitar player, seniors dancing below a disco ball—establish place, as does intermittent twangy music. Moments with dialogue in Spanish and English are heavier. The camera pans through a hallway lined with women reminding one another not to “fall off the edge” or “let go.” Later, pairs shuffle along in unison while a woman, in voice-over, says she is on a bridge and in trouble, needing to cross for a sick nephew. A man (border patrol? a cartel gatekeeper?) replies no.

At the opening of the show, the dynamism of the installation—adjacent screens playing in sequence, sculptural seating, and the disco ball—was furthered by the presence of seniors from the center, watching themselves on-screen and live, as some performed—singing, dancing—in a nearby room. What comes into view with “Salidas y Entradas” are the everyday difficulties of legislated borders, and the joys of simple connection.