Judi Werthein

(Argentina, 1967)

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By creating and launching a new brand of sneaker, trademarked Brinco (Jump), Judi Werthein fashioned an object that embodies a complex and sophisticated critique of the contradictions at the heart of NAFTA, international labor policies, and corporate globalization. Werthein’s sneaker incorporates motifs that both reference, and could potentially facilitate, undocumented migrants’ efforts to illegally cross the US-­Mexico border. Underscoring the tensions sparked by the decline in maquiladoras production and employment in Tijuana brought on by increased global competition, the sneakers were manufactured in China. Through August–November 2005 Werthein distributed the “border-crossing” sneakers to undocumented migrants at the Casa del Migrante, the Casa de la Madre Asunta, and the Casa YMCA de Menores Migrantes-Tijuana—organizations that provide support and services for deported migrants—as well as along the border fence. In counterpoint to their potential utilitarian use, the sneakers were also sold as limited-edition art objects in Blends, a high-end sneaker boutique located in downtown San Diego. In November 2005 the BBC broadcast a half-hour radio program about the project and a deluge of press (including and AP article that was distributed internationally) and public interest followed. Werthein appeared on CNN and Fox News, and magazines, newspapers, and radio stations around the world covered the story. Brinco stirred up debate about immigration law and the paradox of economic and political policies that promote the cross-border movement of goods, services, capital, and commodities, while simultaneously seeking to prevent the movement of labor.

Curators: Osvaldo Sánchez and Donna Conwell
Venues: Tijuana, the US-Mexico border, and Blends, a San Diego sneaker boutique