An installation which takes its name from the lyrics of Los Tijuana Five's "Sueños de California", a Spanish cover of the iconic "Dreams of California" by The Mamas and the Papas. The project is interested in tracing and teasing out the implication of the topophilic impulse expressed in the song through aural artifacts from Southern California/Northern Mexico, inviting viewers/listeners to consider the ways “the affective bond[s] between people and place or setting”2 are articulated and renegotiated through song -- at times expressing solidarity with and at times standing in defiance of political rhetoric that seeks to claim/retain/defend a space as one’s own (e.g. struggles against gentrification, and struggles against xenophobic anti-immigrant policies).
This aural compilation is played out of a collection of novelty radios sourced from public markets (swap meets + sobreruedas) along the border -- spaces through which the “shared sonic environment”3 between the US and Mexico has been established, sustained and replicated, as a central element of a popular Baja/Alta California (im)migrant aesthetic.
A secondary component of the installation speaks to another loci of this sonic environment: radio. A series of maps document the location and range of radio transmitters that exist between San Diego/Tijuana (ie. 105.7 FM, 90.3 FM, 91.1. FM). Known as “border blasters”, such radio stations transmit their signals at very high power across the border, between nations. These maps provide a visual record of a contemporary binational California soundscape. The origins of this soundscape can be traced to the 1960s and the Mighty 1090AM (XERB), which DJ Wolfman Jack presided over -- its signal, originating south of Tijuana in Rosarito, reached Californian ears up through the Central Valley, including those of a young George Lucas’ who featured Wolfman in his 1973 film “American Graffiti”. The station played rock and roll, sparking a binational youth subculture, which eventually gave rise to bands along the Mexican side of the border who covered songs they were hearing on the radio, bands like Los Tijuana Five, and songs like “California Dreaming / Sueños de California”.
The maps also illustrate how the reach of FM border blaster stations coincides with Border Patrol checkpoints in San Clemente and Temecula, CA, situating a juxtaposition between communication systems that expand and diffuse the border line, with surveillance systems that intend to counteract its annulling. Ultimately, the installation becomes a way to trace the history of a contemporary imaginary of California through sound.