Migrant’s Lament: Sewing Politics into Geography

I realized I did this installation and performance last summer and posted it before I did it, but never followed up with what actually happened.

Migrant’s Lament: Sewing Politics into Geography, a site-specific installation and performance (30’ by 24’) in the Ex Casserma Monte Rita (military barracks) for the international Biennale Arte Dolomite, is a meditation on the increasing number of border walls throughout the world. Over forty border walls have been constructed in the wake of 9/11 and the Arab Spring. Record numbers of (im)migrants are in movement in the U.S., the E.U., the Middle East, and North Africa, challenging the limits of our global world’s hospitality and compassion. Millions of immigrants are vulnerable, sleeping outside in tents and blankets, experiencing and suffering the lived reality and trauma of decisions made by far-away leaders, thinking about resources and protecting what they already have—instead of people.

(statement continues after images) 


In the installation Migrant’s Lament, I literally sew politics into humanity. I sit in the middle of the room on a pink chair and sew a dotted red line into a blue blanket. The action/performance references the millions of individuals that are affected by the construction of nation-state borders. In the installation, topographical maps hang from a red chalk line around the room. The red line, a representation of life, unites all of the maps. The maps depict a region that was once a part of Mexico but now belongs to the U.S. as a result of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Signed in 1848, the treaty established the Rio Grande as the boundary for Texas, giving the U.S. ownership of California, half of New Mexico, most of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. Mexicans in those areas had the choice to relocate within Mexico or stay within those boundaries and receive American citizenship.
In addition, I added various markings and text on the wall with chalk including words like “appartenere/belonging,” “here,” “there,” and symbols including arrows and a white box, referencing privilege. The entire room is marked with a waist-high red line as a boundary or border marker. I wrote the names of countries who have constructed walls to keep people out above the line, and the country on the other side of the wall below the line, for example: Israel/Palestine and India/Bangladesh. I left chalk on the ground floor of the installation and audience members added to the text and wall markings throughout the exhibition.
In the corner of the room, the viewer finds a carefully folded pile of wool blankets representing our global world and the compassion and care we need to summon in support of individuals at this pivotal moment.
The installation questions borders and their creation with an unfinished rock wall built on a red chalk line drawn on the ground. The viewer remains unclear about this wall. Is it being constructed or deconstructed? It asks the viewer to think deeply about what is happening in our world today.

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