"The border that northern Mexico shares with the United States has always been a permeable thing," says Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo. "I would like to think about what a border means."
Ruiz Galindo is one half of Pedro y Juana, a Mexico City-based design duo. Sitting next to partner Mecky Reuss, she's answering a question about U.S. President Donald Trump's much vaunted barrier to keep the "bad hombres" out of America. Asked about designing such a structure, she wonders about transforming the meaning of physical barrier. "We are architects at the end of the day," she says. "Aestheticizing the wall is an interesting subject."
Reuss, on the other hand, is more practical. A native of Hamburg, he knows a thing or two about walls. "What mechanisms exist to resist such a structure?" he asks. "Catapults? Tunnels? Ladders? These are simple tools. Besides, as far as building something, it already exists. What Trump is talking about is more a political statement. As far as seeing something physical, we'll see."
The two were in Toronto recently to discuss their latest project, a site-specific installation at the VIP Party at Power Ball, the annual fundraising event for the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. Sitting in the Harbourfront Centre Theatre, where Power Ball XIX will happen on June 1, Reuss and Ruiz Galindo discuss their ideas for the two-hour Toronto art-world event of the season. If a Mexican border is permeable and conceptual, the wall between art and those who consume it is, as the design team sees it, something other than concrete.
"Guests will find themselves where they're both spectator and active contributor," Reuss says about a happening with a stereo-vision theme. "The two will co-exist."
The pair are collaborating with Francesco Pedraglio, a performance artist based in Mexico City and London. Pedraglio will write a narrative; Reuss and Ruiz Galindo will play off that, in terms of design for a series of vignettes to unfold during the evening.
"The environment will set the tone," Reuss says about their plans. "The things which will take place will not necessarily be in your face or require a huge amount of brain capacity to deal with it."
The environment is, of course, a party. "You have food, and you have drink," says Ruiz Galindo, who mentions Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 film Pierrot le Fou as an inspiration "We have people who will not be giving their full attention."
It appears that this year's Power Ball happening might be more immersive and restrained than in the past. Last summer, performance artist Ryan McNamara worked with a cast of 20 performers in leotards for a "situation-specific intervention" that involved cake decorating and trust-falls with VIP guests. In 2015, the American conceptualist Jennifer Rubell brought with her chow-down situations that included an octopus chandelier from which patrons could eat. A year earlier, British artist Naomi Kashiwagi played a live gramophone.
Back to Trump: When it comes to his wall obsession and views on Mexicans, the duo is of two minds. While Ruiz Galindo smiles and waves off concern, Reuss is less cavalier: "At a certain point," he says, "it stops being funny."
To that, Ruiz Galindo mentions that Trump fatigue may have already set in. "I think we've had a pretty dire few years, with gas prices and the value of the dollar," she says, mentioning her disappointment in Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. "I think we're a little tired of Trump. And, besides, we've got our hands full with our own guy."
Power Ball XIX: Stereo Vision takes place June 1 at the Power Plant in Toronto (thepowerplant.org).