Who We Are
TUG is an interdisciplinary arts collective that creates contact zones where people can generate insights about, and produce actions around, contemporary social issues.
Since 2006, TUG has focused on participatory, problem-based interventions related to borders, borderlands, and other fuzzy frontiers, and their relationships to the global processes that put people, ideas, media, technologies, and capital into circulation with one another, and not without significant friction.
Slipping into the cracks, and driven by process, TUG has explored the social navigation of lived environments in Michoacán, one of México’s five feeder states for migration to the United States, worked as a sound incubator in Windsor, Canada, mitigating sound pollution coming from North America’s busiest border crossing for trade, brought together activists from the US- México/US-Canada borders with community organizers in the state of Maine, and collaborated with over 50 citizen volunteers from South Texas to address what it means to be a US-American of Mexican descent along the border. Recent projects include, Who Eats at Taco Bell?, an 11-state journey across the National Historic Lewis and Clark Trail that tapped into the generative power of the taco as one of the apostles of Mexican food in the United States in order to think about the multiple ways that US-Americans conceptualize what it means to be an American.
TUG’s work has been presented in such creative spaces as the Luminary Center for the Arts, Charlotte Street Foundation, The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Holter Museum of Art, FrontierSpace, Galería 409, Guapamacátaro Center for Art and Ecology, ARX Fest, Green Corridor, Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium, and the Center for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence, among others.
In 2017, TUG received an Artist-in-Residence Fellowship from The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts to work on Borders|Corridors|Lines of Desire, an installation of six works dealing with the contradictions of US-American history.
TUG Collective was formed out of the impulse to transgress the archive (that which is anchored in paradigm, such as texts, notation, documents, letters, photos) by registering and radiating ways of knowing that are part of the repertoire (that which is embodied, improvised, co-experienced). The point was, and still is, not to elevate the repertoire at the expense of the archive, but to vividly braid them together by triangulating creativity, critique, and citizenship.
Our creativity neither originates from, nor terminates with, material, but rather emerges out of our foundational gesture of calling upon the methodology of improvisation in our work. We believe that there is a great deal of value inherent in the way that improvisation presents itself as a non-hierarchical (ideally), process-oriented practice, that claims no victories and is rooted in a ‘listening’ self.’ Wood, sound, paint, image, and the like might work their way in, but their purpose is to orbit around one another as a continuum of tissues that connect the embodied, improvised, and co-experienced with the tactility of cultural meaning that they engender.
Critique suggests an all-seeing power that purports to know the world just by looking down at it. Our reading, however, oscillates between the urgent call for tapping into the re/search imagination and for tethering it together with what is actually going on in various contact zones. By exploring how a spot, a stain, or a smudge matters for people living among it, within it, and against it, we catalyze our attention to other lines of desire, and shift out of the paradigm in which difference has no power and into one where difference fosters a kind of critical plurality.
Plurality is at the heart of our work. So, too, is concerned citizenship. We approach disparate moments and geographic locations as sites of contestation, collaboration and transformation. We look for cracks in the pavement, open up gaps in the order of things, and provide a platform through which individuals can appear to one another, in joint action, thereby moving and illuminating their own agency.
The projects that we do as TUG Collective rely upon a confederacy of components and tactics that are neither linear, nor two-dimensional, nor spelled-out, but are rather entangled in an open-score that is tactile, performative, and empathic. Where ideas and relationships come into being by virtue of all of us doing what we are doing together. Where elements are stacked—happening simultaneously—or unfolding over the course of a few hours, days, weeks, or months. Where uncertainty is a necessary component of exploration.