/ May 2016
An interdisciplinary project in literature, photography, film, performance, and cosmology, Quintan Ana Wikswo's OUT HERE DEATH IS NO BIG DEAL addresses the lives of women navigating the tangle of predatory institutional and personal violence in the desert borderlands between Northern Mexico, the Tohono O’Odham Nation, and the southwest United States.
These liminal territories are a vital and volatile terrain of sex trafficking and femicide, organized crime and paramilitary mercenaries, vigilantes and fugitives and gender crime refugees, military bases and government research installations, missile sites and drone airfields, deep-space and trans-galactic observatories, utopian separatist religious conclaves, archeoastronomical telescopes and prehistoric temples, indigenous resistance strongholds and genocide grounds, cosmological research centers, turquoise mines and collapsing coal shafts, weapons proving grounds and clandestine Manhattan Project facilities, abandoned sets from Hollywood westerns, uranium-contaminated Navajo Nation Superfund sites…and networks of safe houses, crisis centers, shelters, and treatment facilities for the women, children, and soldiers who are casualties of various kinds of combat, in various kinds of deserts.
In the midst, an underground railroad, a renegade network of vibrant, often audacious identity queerness – especially between female bodies often spiderwebbed with the battle scars of gender violence and an un-mappable ancestral DNA.
OUT HERE DEATH IS NO BIG DEAL is an interdisciplinary, interconnected suite of Quintan Ana Wikswo's photographs, films, prose poems, performance texts, short stories, essays, installations, and solo and collaborative live performance works that include:
- a suite of 50 large-format photography-and-text triptychs for exhibition
- a literary, book-length collection of personal essays, short stories, memoir, and poetry
- a suite of films for installlation, live performance, and exhibition
- a suite of solo and collaborative performance works
- individual essays and photos for publication and installation
/ Quintan Ana Wikswo
Like me, many people who live/d along the U.S.-Mexico border discover themselves caught up in a peculiar intersection of geopolitical violence, existential explorations, and the intimate personal consequences of both. Starting in my adolescence and continuing for decades, I began navigating my own experience of these intersections in Northern Mexico, South Texas, New Mexico, Southern Arizona, the desert borderlands of Southern California, and several Native/tribal Nations.
While living in a progression of utopian – and dystopian – borderland subcultures, I became a small part of various efforts to address the repercussions of violent conflict in the deserts of the Southwest, and the deserts of the Middle East, since many soldiers returned from combat to inhabit the military bases and training sites, GI-Billed state universities, and Veterans Administration hospitals that are so plentiful throughout the border region.
OUT HERE is deeply invested in these lives and experiences, in particular those I lived - and lived amidst - during many iterations of my life. For a time, I helped set up shelters and safe houses for a group of people who should be called gender crimes refugees, but were often just called women, wives, daughters, mothers, queers, prostitutes... At the safe houses, our youngest survivors were newborns. Behind the secret walls, stories and wounds revealed human cruelty on a level of complexity and barbarity that I found devastating to comprehend even while I bore witness, and experienced impacts and echoes and ricochets of that violence in my own life.
Over time, the differences between the lives of the “helpers” and the “helped” merged into a continuum of female and gendered and sexual experience that I had not – previously – entirely conceptualized. The omnipresent threat of retaliative violence, security concerns, the constant imposition of silencing, secrecy, and confidentiality, and the flagrant misogyny in the justice system underscored the degree of power that men and male perpetrators maintained at all levels of society. The messianic, exploitative zeal of whiteness, straightness, wealth, power, and colonial imperialism further influence, escalate, and exacerbate the volatility. And likewise, the nearly always wrongly-placed authority and control of law enforcement.
Several years later, I am beginning to excavate, resurrect, and re-animate the lives we have led there, one story at a time.