Transborder Immigrant Tool

A Mexico/U.S Border Disturbance Art Project

By Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g. lab

Artists: Micha Cárdenas, Amy Sara Carroll, Ricardo Dominguez, Elle Mehrmand and Brett Stalbaum

Born 2007: (CALIT2/Visual Arts Department/University of California, San Diego/Program in American Culture, Latina/o Studies/English Department/University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)

Born again 2009: Media virus

Mixed Media: i335 Motorola, software, images, poetry, and audio

The Customs and Border Protection Agency’s 2009 fiscal year report documents 416 border-crossing related deaths from January to October 2009. When the Berlin Wall fell, official reports claimed that ninety-eight people in total died trying to cross from East to West Berlin. In contrast, local and international nongovernmental organizations estimate that 10,000 people to date have perished attempting to cross the Mexico-U.S. border. The Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT) repurposes inexpensive used mobile phones that have GPS antennae. The project represents a multi-valenced code-switch, a queer technology. Its software aspires to guide “the tired, the poor,” the dehydrated—citizens of the world—to water safety sites. Concomitantly, its platform offers poetic audio “sustenance.” Incapable of resolving the long histories of fear, prejudice and misunderstanding on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border, TBT remembers the often overlapping traditions of transcendental and nature writing, earthworks, conceptual art, performance, border art, locative media, and visual and concrete poetries. It learns equally from the efforts of humanitarian aid organizations ike the Border Angels and Water Station, Inc. “Poetry in motion,” TBT navigates the borderlands of G.P.S. as a “global positioning system” and what, in another context, Laura Borràs Castanyer and Juan B. Gutiérrez slyly misread as a “global poetic system.”


Lead researcher: Jason Najarro

Web design: Diana Le

Audio translations: Petra Kuppers (German), Yanoula Athanassakiysl(aGDriefuenkt)a, FCeolrirpeea.

Zúñiga, Jenny Donovan, and Gabriela Torres (Spanish), Lili Hsieh/ 謝莉莉譯 and Zona Yi-Ping Tsou/ 鄒怡平譯 (Mandarin Chinese), Tatiana Sizonenko (Russian), Steve Williard (blues score)

Voices: Yanoula Athanassakis, Micha Cárdenas, Amy Sara Carroll, Zé Carroll- Domínguez, Jordan Crandall, Ricardo Domínguez, Lili Hsieh, Elle Mehrmand, Zac Monday, Patricia Montoya, Chloe Sanossian, Tatiana Sizonenko, Brett Stalbaum, Oliver Ting, Steve Willard


Over the Valley, Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles, CA

Cultural Hijack, AA Gallery, London, UK

Arte Útil, Queens Museum, New York

Designated Drivers, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX

Anti-Atlas of Borders, Aix-En-Provenance, France

Covert Operations, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona

Transition, MIX 24 Queer Experimental Film Festival, New York City

Sustenance: A Play for All Trans[]Borders, Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab, The Mobile Voices of LA’s Immigrants, USC Visions and Voices

Sustenance: A Play for All Trans[]Borders, Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab, &Now Festival, UCSD

Variedades #3: Anarchy, Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab, The Echo, Los Angeles

2010 California Biennial, Orange County Museum of Art

Mérida Biennale: Arte Nuevo InteractivA ’09, Museo de la Ciudad, Mérida, Mexico

International Summit of Electronic Art (ISEA) 2009 – Space is the Place, Gallery of the National College of Art & Design, Dublin, Ireland

Here Not There, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego


Beck: Universities can be as ‘dangerous’ as Iran and North Korea

Sustenance (A Play for all Trans[]borders) Interview with Ricardo Dominguez and Amy Sara Carroll, Vandal Journal

Poetry, Immigration and the FBI: The Transborder Immigrant Tool, Hyperallergic, Leila Nadir

Technology Without Borders, Culture Strike, Michelle Chen

“Revisiting the Curious World of Art and Hacktivism”,, Marc Garrett

Plugging Art into The Environment,, Leila Nadir

Screw-Embedded Football ‘Breathes’ on Respirator,, Hugh Hart

GPS tool helps illegal immigrants cross US border, Associated Press

Celular para cruzar ilegalmente, BBC World

Border Crossing: There’s an App for That, NBC San Diego

Low-Tech App Aids in Crossing Mexican Border, UCSD Guardian

GPS para indocumentados, Telemundo

Border Crossing Application, Fox 5 TV San Diego

Smart phone application helps illegal immigrants navigate safely across border, NBC Spokane Washington

GPS Technology to Help Illegal Immigrants, KSRO – Santa Rosa,CA,USA

Poll: 56% say border-crossing tool threatens national security, OC Register

mobile phone application gets mixed reactions, State Press

Border Crossing: There’s an App for That, NBC Chicago

UCSD Researches Creating Phone App For Border Crossers, – Rockford,IL,USA

Want to sneak into US? There’s an app for that, – Washington,DC,USA

FOLLOW THE GPS ESE, Alex Dunbar, Vice Magazine

For more history, see



The Electronic Disturbance Theater is a group who developed Virtual-Sit-In technologies in 1998 in solidarity with the Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico. Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT) 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab is a recent project with Micha Cárdenas, Dr. Amy Sara Carroll, Ricardo Dominguez, Elle Mehrmand, and Brett Stalbaum who developed the *Transborder Immigrant Tool* (a GPS cellphone safety net tool guiding people crossing the Mexico/U.S border to poetic and physical sustenance. The tool was the winner of “Transnational Communities Award” (2008), this award was funded by *Cultural Contact*, Endowment for Culture Mexico – U.S. and handed out by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico), also funded by CALIT2 and two Transborder Awards from the UCSD Center for the Humanities. *Transborder Immigrant Tool* was exhibited at 2010 California Biennial (OCMA), Toronto Free Gallery, Canada (2011), “Cultural Highjack” Architectural Association School of Architecture, London (2013), as well as a number of other venues, the project was also under investigation by the U.S. Congress in 2009/10, and was also reviewed by Glenn Beck in 2010 as a gesture that potentially “dissolved” the U.S. border with its poetry.