The Border Bookmobile is project that will be launched in late summer 2009. It is a traveling exhibition of books, artist projects, photographs and ephemera about the urban history of the Windsor-Detroit region and other border cities around the world. The collection will fit into a 1995 Chrysler Voyager minivan that will travel throughout the Windsor-Detroit region. These vans were pro- duced in the Chrysler Minivan Assembly Plant, the largest auto factory in Wind- sor: in this way the van will act as a symbol of the economic cycles of the re- gion and the vicissitudes of manufacturing and trade that constitute local his- tory.
The minivan has been a staple of auto manufacturing in Southwestern Ontario since the 1980s and it corresponds in a number of ways to a moment in late twentieth century urbanism when suburbanization had become the dominant model of spatial planning and land use in North America. Detroit was one of the first big cities to undergo this transition to the suburbs and the city is often said to be shrinking; however up until recently its population was moving, slowly and steadily away from the urban core to satellite cities and townships on the periphery. A similar pattern has ensued in the Windsor region on the Canadian side to the point where we are left with a loose and disjointed collec- tion of developments on both sides that form a large international suburban donut. The Detroit-Windsor region forms one of the largest international urban areas in North America and was built up on the Canadian side as a manufac- turing and export processing zone in the early part of the twentieth century.The Border Bookmobile

Diversions: A Cross-Border Symposium


Art Gallery of Windsor, Betty Wilkinson Room

While Detroit’s urban legacy is widely recognised, the city is rarely regarded as a part of a cross-border metropolitan environment. Across the US-Canadian border, Windsor’s urban character has been closely tied to Detroit’s rise and fall. With continual changes in the security and economic climate, these two cities are increasingly separated, subject to border policies imposed from their respective national security mandates. Nevertheless, the Windsor-Detroit region is largely absent within the rich discourse on borders that has emerged from the US-Mexico borderlands and regions elsewhere in the world. Likewise, the substantial artistic and intellectual activity from Detroit focuses on the city’s internal divisions, yet the international boundary on its southern edge remains ignored. This symposium seeks to change the conversation about borders in the Windsor-Detroit region through inviting prominent artists and researchers to consider the obstacles and mobilities that have emerged in this urban locale.

Please join us at the Art Gallery of Windsor for a two-day symposium featuring presentations from 14 artists, urban theorists and filmmakers from Canada, Mexico and the US whose work focuses on borders, circulation and imagined geographies.  Presentations will begin at 10 am on Friday, March 8th.  A bus tour of Windsor and Detroit will end the symposium on Saturday afternoon. This tour will be conducted by Metis artist and activist Dylan Miner who will consider the regions’ other borders and modes of circulation from Indigenous perspectives.





Spheres of Circulation: 10:30 am-12 noon
David Taylor, Ali Kazimi, Richard Fung, Nathalie Casemajor Loustau
Moderator: Srimoyee Mitra, Curator of Contemporary Art

Bordered Spaces: 1-2:30 pm
Marcos Ramirez, Janine Marchessault, Phil Hofmann, Justin Langlois
Moderator: Lee Rodney, Associate Professor Visual Culture University of Windsor, Director Border Bookmobile

Coffee break 2:30 – 3 pm

Imagined Geographies 3:00 -4:30 pm
Chris McNamara, Anouk Belanger, Will Straw, Louis Jacob
Moderator: Michael Darroch, Assistant Professor Media Art Histories, University of Windsor, Director Interminus Research Group


Guided tours of Border Cultures Part 1 & The Border Bookmobile Public Archive and Reading Room, by Srimoyee Mitra & Lee Rodney: 11am – 12 noon

Diversions cross border bus tour (begins at AGW ends at US customs plaza, Detroit): 12:30 pm – 6:30 pm




Undocumented: A workshop for those without papers in Windsor and Detroit


Art Gallery of Windsor, Border Bookmobile Public Archive and Reading Room, Gallery C, 2nd floor

While it is often presumed that the Windsor-Detroit border is relatively easy to cross, many residents have been unable to visit their neighboring city since strict passport regulations came into effect in 2009. This workshop will be co-hosted with Windsor’s Broken City Lab and the Interminus Research Group to examine the uneven access to passports that impacts both new immigrants and lower income groups in Windsor and Detroit. As both cities have high unemployment rates, significant numbers of residents are unable to visit the other side. This planning workshop will bring together local organizations to work toward assisting passport applications for marginalized groups on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, with the ultimate goal of facilitating a small number of day trips for these new passport holders in 2014. The project will begin during this workshop and will continue over the next year. This is a research based project that will be documented at all stages to outline the significant challenges and hurdles faced by many residents of these border cities.




Book Launch: The Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit


Broken City Lab’s Civic Space, 411 Pelisser Street, Windsor

Please join us for the Canadian book launch of Andrew Herscher’s Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit at Broken City Lab’s Civic Space. Rather than seeing Detroit as an urban problem that needs to be solved, Andrew Herscher suggests that we regard Detroit as a “novel urban formation” and a site “where new ways of imagining, inhabiting, and constructing the contemporary city are being invented, tested, and advanced.” Andrew Herscher is a writer and theorist whose work considers architectural and urban forms of political violence; his research has focused on locations as seemingly disparate as the Former Yugoslavia and more recently, Detroit. He teaches at the University of Michigan where he is cross appointed between the School of Architecture and Slavic Languages and Literatures. Between 2005 – 2009 he chaired the Rackham Interdisciplinary Seminar on Human Rights.

A discussion between Andrew Herscher, Grant Yocom (Lecturer in Philosophy, Oakland University) and Justin Langlois (Director, Broken City Lab) will take place on critical responses to urban crisis in this region and others.




Without You I’m Nothing: Conversations between Windsor & Detroit 2012

Selected interviews with visitors to the Border Bookmobile between 2010-2012. Residents of Windsor (Canada) and Detroit (US) relay their views about crossing the international border that runs between the two cities as well as their impressions of the other side. The full videos will be on view at the Art Gallery of Windsor between January 25 – March 31, 2013.



 The Border Bookmobile Public Archive and Reading Room: January 25 – March 31, 2013

On January 25, 2013, The Border Bookmobile Public Archive and Reading Room will open to the public for 3 months at the Art Gallery of Windsor. During this time, our new and expanded collection will be available to the public and we will also be hosting a series of talks and workshops on a variety of border related subjects:

January 26 @ 2pm: “Border Talk”, a panel discussion hosted by the Art Gallery of Windsor on Border Cultures: Part 1 (curated by Srimoyee Mitra).

February 9 @ 2pm: “Migration and Narration: A panel discussion on North America’s borderlands” Speakers:  Jason de Leon, University of Michigan, Tanya Basok, University of Windsor, Tom Klug, Marygrove College, Detroit.

March 8-9: Diversons: Cross Border Symposium

March 15: “Undocumented” a workshop with Broken City Lab.


The Border Bookmobile is…

A research platform and mobile exhibition of books, artist projects, photographs and ephemera about the urban history of the Windsor-Detroit region and other border cities around the world. The collection is housed in a 1993 Chrysler Voyager minivan that travels throughout the region. Produced in the Chrysler Minivan Assembly Plant, the largest auto factory in Windsor, the van acts as a symbol of the economic cycles of the region and the vicissitudes of manufacturing and trade that constitute local history.

The Bookmobile is in part a memory project that seeks to chart the changing relationship between Detroit and Windsor as border cities in the industrial heartland of North America. But it is also a social platform to discuss borders within and between cities, and the production of space within borderlands in more heterogeneous and contested parts of the world.

A summary of our events and field trips can be found under projects. The archives section includes highlights from the collection (books, maps, headlines and media research) as well as descriptions of some of our ongoing research.


With the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada, we are preparing a three-month exhibition at the Art Gallery of Windsor starting in January 2013 where the Bookmobile will establish a public archive and reading room for the winter months.  Here we will host a series of thematic workshops including: Divided towns/Divided Cities; The DWA (Detroit-Windsor Area):Connections and Disconnections; and Writing Border Histories.

For information contact:


Context and Coverage:

Thanks to many artists, activists and writers, the Border Bookmobile is generating a web of interest both locally and internationally.  There are many fantastic bookmobiles hitting the streets as print goes increasingly digital. We are thrilled to be listed among a global list of bookmobiles in a Flavorwire entry on “Incredibly Unique Bookmobiles around the World”.  Alison Nastasi has collected images of some of the coolest libraries on wheels, including the Argentinian project, “The Weapon of Mass Instruction” a bookmobile made from a converted tank.  We were also cited on the Applied Aesthetic Index, a site featuring a variety of socially-engaged practices. Thanks also go to Jean-Francois Prost (Montreal): his Adaptive Actions project features the Border Bookmobile among hundreds of urban interventions around the world (see Imagination Station Detroit entry for more info).

Adam Lauder provides a cultural and historical context for the renewed interest in the subject of the library in his incisive essay, “Performing the Library”  which generously situates the Border Bookmobile among a number of artists’ libraries: found in C magazine, no. 111, Libraries.  And CJAM’s Paul Chislett conducted a lengthy interview on “How to Forget the Border Completely” on his radio show, The Shakeup in February 2011.  Thanks go especially to Windsor’s Broken City Lab which helped launch the Border Bookmobile project through their Storefront Residencies for Social Innovation (2010) and our collaborative “Psychogeographic Drive-Thru” tour last June in their “How to Forget the Border Completely” project and book.

Finally thanks to Peter Mortenboeck and Helge Mooshammer for inviting me to contribute to their recently published book Space (Re) Solutions: Intervention and Research in Visual Culture which features an essay on changing cultural politics of the Canada-U.S. border and the Border Bookmobile’s role in chronicling this shift.

Recommended Reading:

An emerging selection of notes: what we’re reading, interesting links to border projects around the world as well as marginalia on minivans.