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Meet Josemar Gonzalez Lizarraga

Today we’d like to introduce you to Josemar Gonzalez Lizarraga.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I was born in San Diego, CA from Mexican parents. Since I was five years old I have been crossing the border almost daily to commute between the two countries of the United States and Mexico. I didn’t recognize there was a border that divided the two countries geographically, to me it was the same thing. I never questioned that reality until I grew older and the border became highly militarized and I was beginning to be treated like a threat by CBP agents at the border. It took me a long time before I realized I was an artist; it took me a long time for me to believe it. Tragic events in my life defined the person who I am, they made me question my identity and in a way remove it.

The violence in Tijuana during the 2008 – 2009 period affected the people I cared about directly, I saw people close to me disappear and die. I questioned where I was going, and asked myself if I was happy. The only way I could cope with the loss was to shelter in the arts and find the meaning behind these experiences. I found the non-profit organization The AjA Project and was immediately drawn to it. Here I hear stories similar to mine, stories of refugees, migration, and marginalization. Here I was able to develop myself as an artist under the mentorship of Shinpei Takeda.

Now I serve as creative director of this beautiful organization, and through this organization was able to start BORDERCLICK, a digital living archive of the transfronterizo experience, a project dedicated to tell the stories of communities and individuals who cross the international border daily, for many reasons, whether its for work, school, family or love. I develop myself in the border region, and in a way considered a border artist. I direct PASE music a music and arts organization in Tijuana that is dedicated to creating a platform for creatives to showcase their work in both sides of the border and help bridge the cultural gap. I am also a musician and currently perform with ETHICS and The Ghost Magnet Roach Motel, both projects created and performed by bi-national artists.

Please tell us about your art.
The purpose of my work is to help educate and enrich using the arts as a means of communication. The majority of my work deals with documentation, storytelling, and deconstruction of human experiences. Trained in the media arts, I use them as tools to engage audiences and help bring experiences and stories to a wider audience. I dwell in different forms of artistic expression like installation art, photography, film, and music. Depending on the audience and the message I change the tool.

The most impactful work I have been able to develop has been through BORDERCLICK and The AjA Project, here I am able to use art as a tool for change and work with communities like mine, which have been historically marginalized. When I can connect and help inspire positive change, and help share stories that sometimes go unrecognized that is when I truly feel like an artist.

I do what I do because I see no other way; I feel a responsibility as a privileged man that sees both sides of the stories to be in the community and help support the work that my colleagues and participants do, to help break cycles of marginalization. When people see my work I want them to understand that there is more than one narrative, that our past does not define who we are, that we need to look further and not be afraid to step into the unknown, that we share a collective memory, and at the end a collective story.

Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
I believe the role of a true artist has never changed. Art has always been used as a tool since the beginning of society, by religion, political systems, and educational systems.

What we do with that tool is what is impactful and is what helps define our roles in society. The events and issues happening in our world today have been part of my work as an activist and artist. Many people believe that what we see now is new, and the truth is that it’s not, the issues of today have been issues for years, but now with the fast-paced communication that we have it’s at the forefront of the media.

Racism, classicism, marginalization, poverty, violence, and war, have always been here, but in a way society now is forced to view it, but some decide to opt out and ignore it. My role as an artist is in a way to force people to view these stories and think critically about their role in society.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
People can see some of the work I’ve done through my website, The AjA Project’s website, @ajaproject, and BORDERCLICK through Instagram @borderclick. We have a public gallery in The AjA Project’s space in city-heights. In this space, we have photographs and stories from over 17 years of work.

I am currently working on an installation piece that will be showcased in Liberty Station opening in October named ‘Transcending Perception’. The piece will be open to the public through the end of 2018.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Alejandro Martinez, Ale Uzarraga, The Nordical

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