As our first two months of (almost) daily publication of BorderNews.org approach their conclusion with the new year, we want to note a happy surprise.
While we plan to continue to make commentary, personal essays, and pointers to important news stories (including yesterday’s important piece about prospects of a border-exclusion to factory labor pipeline) the center of BorderNews.org, we’ve had strong positive response to the several pieces we’ve posted about the flourishing of arts at the border – arts mostly informal and unofficial, but often powerfully life-affirming and poignant.
We want to approach the end of a deeply challenging year with a look at a few of the artworks and projects that testify to the lived experience and deep humanity of the people at the border.
French artist JR set a high bar in 2017 with his giant baby peering over the border fence in Tecate, captured in the NPR photo at the top of this article. JR’s giant baby is playful, absurd, and tragic – challenging the U.S. Border Patrol agents looking up at its sweet visage, the agents forced to feel small in a place so often cruel to migrant children.
In July of this year, Ronald Rael‘s see-saw project made global news, turning the border fence into the fulcrum of a row of teeter-totters that connecting children on both sides of the wall for joyous play that seemed, for a few moments, to overcome the cold folly of the dream of a wall.
Photographer Tom Kiefer’s remarkable collection of photographs of objects he recovered from the garbage bins of the Border Patrol detention center near Ajo, Arizaona is up now at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles. It testifies to the loves and hopes, the pride and personal struggles of migrants picked up by border patrol, though the images of the items taken from them and thrown away.
Alvaro Enciso, the painter and sculptor dedicated to marking the site of every migrant death in the Sonoran desert south of Tucson with a cross – more than 900 standing today – continues to shape the landscape there around the presence (and absence) of souls not forgotten.
Finally, a look at the wall itself as a medium for art. At the westernmost terminus of the border fence in the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of artists have appropriated the fencing – posts, wires, cages and all – to become messengers of humane expressions. Often changing, these murals and testimonials tell a story always worth hearing.