Thursday, 10 March 2011

To the Frontier

Today’s postcard exploration of lines drawn on maps looks at the United States and its neighbours to north and south. The first postcard is a view from the Mexican side in the era of Prohibition and has been helpfully annotated by the sender to indicate the availability of alcohol. In 1940s film noir, the Mexican border was the first destination of many an anti-hero looking to keep one step ahead of the law. An image of a fugitive Robert Mitchum springs to mind, hat tipped down over his eyes, hands gripping the steering wheel, scattering flocks of sheep on the dirt roads leading south to yet another seedy hotel room and a femme fatale with an exotic Latin flavour. Two further cards show border crossings between El Paso, Texas and Juarez as they appeared in less contentious times, decades before Juarez would acquire the infamy that inspired Roberto Bolaño’s fictional re-creation in the dark and dreadful pages of 2666.

The last card is a masterpiece of vagueness and anonymity. The US – Canada border runs for 5525 miles making it the longest in the world. There are 122 controlled border crossings of which this card shows just one. The image is an epic of passivity and given the generic and featureless quality of both landscape and buildings there seems little possibility of identification. In the universe of linen postcards where reality is never less than two steps removed, it all makes perfect sense.

No comments: