Josh Rios. Anthony Romero, and Deanna Ledezma, Ballad of the Uprooted, 2019 Photo: Tom Van Eynde, 2019

Ballad of the Uprooted

Ballad of the Uprooted uses moving images, sound recordings, and archival documents and artifacts, alongside architectural constructions that function simultaneously as boundaries, enclosures, and mechanisms of display. As a creative and scholarly production, this installation examines the history of migrant crop labor and the depiction and conscription of agricultural work through policy, political rhetoric, personal narrative, and media representation. This research-based project seeks to complicate settled notions of labor politics, which tend to center the urban and industrial, by taking into account agribusiness, crop working, and the racialization of U.S. labor histories. Topics under consideration include government policies and programs as well as activist organizations, such as the Bracero Program, Operation Wetback, the United Farm Workers Union, and the National Farm Labor Union. In addition, the project poses questions about how crop-oriented political activism developed along migrant labor trails and how crop dusting and pesticide production subjected communities and labor forces of color to racist environmental practices. Furthermore, we examine the ways that creativity has been deployed through El Teatro Campesino (Farm Workers’ Theatre) and migrant song traditions as both tools of communal consciousness raising and ways to generate aesthetic pleasure. Drawing upon archival research conducted in New Mexico and Texas, as well as personal archives and family histories, Ballad of the Uprooted develops parafictional accounts and speculative archives that trace the exploitation of migrant crop workers within a U.S. political and agribusiness framework.

Installation detail of Ballad of the Uprooted, Josh Rios, Anthony Romero, and Deanna Ledezma, 2019. Photo: Tom Van Eynde, 2019


Josh Rios, Anthony Romero, and Deanna Ledezma make up a research and practice-based group who collaborate on specific projects and proposals. The group features various disciplinary and interdisciplinary backgrounds united by an interest in power dynamics, representational regimes, social and political resistance, creativity as a force of social change, and the struggle to define historical narratives. Josh Rios is an educator, media artist, and cultural critic with a focus in visual studies, critical writing, performance, experimental sound, and moving image. Anthony Romero is an educator, performance artist, writer and organizer who works in decolonial and performance studies with an emphasis in critical race theories. Deanna Ledezma is an art historian, photographer, and creative writer who focuses on archival research, photography studies, visual culture, and the relationship between family photography and social resistance.

Josh Rios, Anthony Romero, and Deanna Ledezma, research image from Ballad of the Uprooted, 2019