Crossing the border is easy with the blue American passport – painfully so for many who pass through to work with asylum-seekers and others seeking entry to the U.S. The uniformed agents glancing up and waving you through, the quick check at a kiosk by an ICE agent, listening for an accent: Midwestern English? New York growl? “Welcome back,” and the doors open. Crossing the border with such ease among the armed guards and fence mazes keeping out the tens of thousands hard by the border, in camps and squalor, can carry hard weight.
As we cross the border, it’s all too easy to forget that borders themselves cross places and people. By their nature, though nations wall them and guard them and invest in signs of their inevitability and permanence, they are artifacts of politics, and over time they fade, they shift, they open and they close. We cross borders. Borders cross us.
Case in point: the Mexican artist Marcos Ramirez Erre, and his joint project with David Taylor, “DeLimitations.” Erre and Taylor installed 47 miniature pylons to mark the border between the U.S. and Mexico, as it stood in 1821.
More than 55% of the land of Mexico was ceded to the U.S. following the Mexican-American war, through the treaty of Guadeloupe-Hidalgo in 1848. California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and parts of Wyoming and Colorado all became part of the U.S, and the border traveled hundreds of miles south, capturing traditional Mexican and native communities in some cases centuries old. They crossed no borders; the borders crossed them.
An exhibition of the DeLimitations project was up for two months in 2019 at the Rick Wester gallery in New York, and the Wester web site still offers wonderful images of the 1821 border posts weaving through open spaces, parking lots and southwestern American cities. Together they offer a portrait of the post-Mexican America the mobile border created, and hint at the absent voices excluded by the current borderline. The website is well worth a long visit: https://www.rickwesterfineart.com/exhibitions-archive/2019/3/delimitations