Chris Genik introduces Teddy Cruz by saying that his work has established new territories and boundaries within the discourse of identity. His practice is based in San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico and he is Associate Professor of Public Culture and Urbanism in Visual Arts at the University of California San Diego. Through his work, Cruz engages the convulsion of identities caused by the trans-border movement of migrant populations.
The United States/Mexico border near San Diego compresses the powers of surveillance, politics, and economics, and juxtaposes areas of extreme density with sprawl. This radical proximity of mega-wealth and poverty led Cruz to produce his project Radicalizing the Local which documents in photographs the conflicts that exist on a 60 mile linear path from San Diego to Tijuana. This is an example of how his practice centers itself in the issues that arise from these conflicts and seeks to participate in designing the redistribution of resources.
As San Diego continues to build, its waste products are shipped to the south to be used in building Tijuana, including wooden pallets, tires, and even entire houses. Importing and exporting defines every major global city: Los Angeles and San Diego even export their residential building practices and codes as far as China. The main conflict for Cruz’s practice that arises from this process is between factories, labor, and emergency housing in Tijuana. One of Teddy’s projects addresses this conflict directly, working with a local factory to produce small “hinge structures” that people could use in emergency housing to build more stable, safer structures.
Cruz’s Levittown project focuses on an area around San Diego that used to be the periphery, but has been encroached upon by the informal economy and dense immigration. The project shows how political, environmental, and socioeconomic degradation are all inextricably connected. Another of his projects in San Ysidro suggests a new paradigm of housing that could emerge from a collaboration between NGOs, local governments, and communities.
Two projects that came out of his work with NGOs, the local government, and the community of San Ysidro are a senior housing facility with child care and a project called Living Rooms at the Border. This project studied existing movement patterns and approached each parcel of land as a system in which the housing becomes a producer of economies. A similar approach was taken in a project in Hudson, New York where new alternative community spaces were generated that connected a gentrified street with a depressed street two blocks away.