Cog•nate Collective / 32 Cans (San Diego/Tijuana)



32 Cans (ongoing) by artists Cog•nate Collective

A central component of Cog•nate Collective’s production interrogates the way cultural objects mediate relationships to place and to others, and, how such objects could be mobilized to reconstitute these relationships: to reflect upon the ways we establish and express forms of political solidarity that (can) link communities across borders (both physical and symbolic). This has led them to develop systems of exchange that also strive to bridge the aesthetic and material concerns of their practice: leveraging forms of cultural capital/symbolic surplus associated with “Art,” to generate an economic/material benefit for communities contending with the fallout of border enforcement and anti-immigrant legislation. 

One such work, 32 Cans (ongoing) plays with Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup can imagery to generate donations migrant shelters along the U.S./Mexico border. 

The artists begin the project by visiting a supermarket along the U.S.-side of border, and photographing canned food items frequently used by migrant shelters in the Mexican-side of the border—which house and feed migrants who have been deported from the U.S. as well as those seeking to enter the U.S. in search of asylum. 

A series of 15 prints of each canned item is then printed and exhibited in a gallery setting, where each print is sold for the price of the can in the store—e.g. a photograph of a Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup can that sells for $1.29 in the store, is sold for $1.29 in the gallery. 


Thus, the commodity is dematerialized into its symbolic (read: artistic) representation through photography, 

to allow the sell/exchange of these reproductions to generate a more concrete outcome: using the funds generated by the sale of each can to return to the store and purchase (i.e. rematerialize) the actual cans, to donate them to migrant shelters. As such, the artwork comes to function as a mediator that is not just an aesthetic proposition, but a guarantor of a material transaction that can address a tangible need.

©©-32 Cans-Hominy-$3.99-2021
©©-32 Cans-MushroomSoup-2013

BIO: Cog•nate Collective develops interdisciplinary research projects and public interventions that explore how culture mediates social, economic, and political relationships across borders. Rooted in methodologies of critical pedagogy and undertaken in partnership with community leaders, students and/or activist organizations, their projects use various mediums—ranging from map-making, to embroidery, to pirate-radio broadcasts—to foster reflection through dialogue: addressing issues pertaining to citizenship, migration, informal economies, and popular culture.

They have shown and presented their work at various venues nationally and internationally, including at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Armory Center for the Arts, Craft Contemporary, the Getty Center, CSUF Grand Central Art Center, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Arizona State University Art Museum, School of the Art Institute Chicago, Arte Actual FLACSO in Quito, Maison Folie Wazemmes in Lille, and the Organ Kritischer Kunst in Berlin.

Cog•nate Collective was founded in 2010 by Amy Sanchez Arteaga and Misael Diaz. They currently work between Tijuana, B.C. and San Diego, CA.


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