Pig Iron on the Edge: Custom Officers Don't Like Citrus


Bellisant Corcoran-Mathe is among the first year UArts/Pig Iron MFA students that traveled to the northern border of the United States, spending time in both Madawaska, Maine and Edmundston, New Brunswick. Below, she muses on how her definition of "borders" has changed during this journey. 

We were tired and grumpy and not ready to see a show, but after thirteen hours on a train that was crossing the border from New York to Montreal, there we were: sitting in the back row at Espace Libre, watching a two-person show about a very different border than the one we were there to study.

We’d spent the day waiting for farmland to turn to woods, for the train to come to a screeching halt, and for customs to jolt us awake with stern questioning and humorless, rehearsed courtesy. But when we finally rolled to a stop and proffered our passports, we were met with an anti-climactic customs process. The only drama was having to hurriedly eat our oranges because the customs officers “don’t like citrus.” And then, all of a sudden, we were sitting in the dark watching a show. And it wasn’t a show for us.

The show was about the physical, mental, and cultural divisions between the Northern Inuit and the Southern inhabitants of Canada. When I say that the show wasn’t for us, don’t mean to imply it wasn’t our “cup of tea.” I just mean that it was a Canadian show made for Canadians. There were in-jokes about Toronto and Trudeau that whizzed over our foggy heads as we tried to get the taste of microwavable pizza and suspicious Amtrak burgers out of our mouths, minds, and fingernails. It was a brusque reminder that we were no longer on home turf.

As we heard the story of borders being built around the Inuit, my conception of our project began to evolve. I no longer saw this excursion as an exploration of geographic borders. Instead, I saw it as an exploration of mental and cultural borders. The borders I felt as we walked the streets of Montreal and sat through the show were just as affecting—perhaps even more affecting—than the physical inspection that met us at the Canadian border. These boundaries are rife with complications and drama, which we are eager to uncover as we develop our project.