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.

Ackland Museum of Art

Control, Embroidery on found textile, Susan Harbage Page

Just found out the Ackland Museum of Art in Chapel Hill has my work up in the company of Jennifer Holzer, Guerilla Girls, Helen Frankenthaler, Anna, Gaskell, Kara Elizabeth Walker, and Nan Goldin. Thank you Ackland Art Museum!


Objects from the Borderlands and [Non] Belonging: Susan Harbage Page

If you’re in Flagstaff next Thursday I hope to see you. I will be sharing my work on the U.S.–Mexico Border.

Event Details

April 6
Start Time: 7:30 PM
End Time: 9:00 PM
Location: Liberal Arts (18)
Website: https://events.nau.edu/event/immigration-awareness-series-presents-susan-harbage-page/

“Objects from the Borderlands and [Non] Belonging” – For ten years, artist Susan Harbage Page has made annual pilgrimages to traverse the borderlands between Texas and Mexico from Brownsville/Matamoros to Eagle Pass, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. As Page walks, she makes photos of the objects people have left behind and archives them, assembling a collection of 867 to date.  This “anti-archive” challenges the historical record and complicates our notion of archival collections and how we create memory. Page’s documentary endeavor also concretizes the borderlands, a contested space that lives large in people’s imaginations on either side.

UNC Art Auction

Just delivered this work to Light Art + Design, Chapel Hill/Carrboro for the auction tomorrow eve in support of UNC Art Dept. M.F.A. Students. I painted this last summer in Spello, Italy, “Notificazione”, Gouache on found paper, 2016.

The auction is tomorrow. Here is a link. 

I saw many wonderful pieces by UNC M.F.A. students and area artists when I dropped this off. Hope you can make it.


Repossessing Border Space

Congrats Markus Heide on your new publication Repossessing Border Space: Security Practice in North American Border Art.

“How do artists approach topics such as national border security, undocumented
immigration, and border violence? What kind of engaged aestetics do they develop? How
are discourses of security and insecurity – and material manifestations thereof – addressed
in works of installation and performance art located at the US–Mexico and the US–Canada
borders? My discussion will concentrate on three pieces by contemporary US-based artists:
Non-Sign II, a sculpture designed by Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo (known as the Lead
Pencil Studio), The U.S.–Mexico Anti-Archive by photographer and installation artist Susan Harbage Page, and the Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT) by Ricardo Dominguez and The
Electronic Disturbance Theater.”
Excerpt from Repossessing Border Space: Security Practice in North American Border Art by Markus Heide. Comparative American Studies: An International Journal.

This paper discusses how the visual arts engage in representing
border crossing experiences and, more specifically, how art interrupts
border security practices and their rituals. After introducing the history
of North American border art and different approaches to issues of
border crossing, the paper will concentrate on specific works. It argues
that the selected works of art perform interventions that confront the
public with the borderlands as a place of violence and death. At the
same time, artists are shown to employ different artistic strategies
of symbolically re-possessing the borderlands for undocumented
migrants who – when crossing it – experienced it as an existential

New Publication – Disability and Art History: Interdisciplinary Disability Studies

Happy to see this new book out and available from Routledge.
Disability and Art History: Interdisciplinary Disability Studies edited by Ann Millett-Gallant and Elizabeth Howie. Chapter 1 starts with an essay by Ann Millett-Gallant about my photography. Artists and Muses, “Peter’s World” and other photographs by Susan Harbage Page.

Thank you Ann Millett Gallant and Elizabeth Howie. Can’t wait to read the whole thing.

Find it here on Amazon.