The Border Project: New Work by Susan Harbage Page, by Matt Zigler

In the first part of T.H. White’s classic book, The Once and Future King, the young Arthur, known as the Wart, is turned into a goose by Merlyn as a part of his education.  A young female is schooling him on what it means to be a goose: 

‘Do you all come here from different places?’
‘Well in parties of course.   There are some here from Siberia, some from Lapland and I can see one or two from Iceland.
‘But don’t they fight each other for the pasture?’
‘Dear me, you are a silly,’ she said.   ‘There are no boundaries among geese.’
‘What are boundaries, please?’
‘Imaginary lines on the earth, I suppose.   How can you have boundaries if you fly?   Those ants of yours — and the humans too — would have to stop fighting in the end, if they took to the air.’
‘I like fighting,’ said the Wart.   ‘It is knightly.’
‘Because you’re a baby.’
Sadly, the ability to take to the air has not removed our borders, and this subject of the border between Mexico and the United States is front page news with states enacting ever more strict measures for dealing with undocumented immigrants.  Susan Harbage Page has been making trips to the US – Mexico border and documenting the evidence, or the remnants, of a game of cat and mouse that means lawfulness and legality to the people on one side, and life and livelihood to the people on the other.  Her current show at Flanders Gallery incorporates objects that she has collected on her travels (amazingly, according to her card, people stopped at the border have to empty their pockets of anything non-essential), photographs of those objects, and photographs of the evidence of passage.
The show comes across as a socially minded archaeological exhibition.  The statement about the injustice of a failed immigration policy is evident, but not over the top.  The objects are simply tagged with a date and laid out for us to interpret (how did the red bra or the little picture of Jesus end up left in the dirt?).  The border seems to create a remarkable amount of trash and the artist takes an even eye to all of it.  Each object is the sign of one more sacrifice, one more piece of a previous life lost.
There is so much rhetoric about the border and what should be done about it, but few of us ever actually see anything concrete.  Harbage Page’s attempt to bring a little reality into this abstract issue makes for some striking visual images and physical objects, but the takeaway is a greater understanding of an actual problem in the actual world, that we might just actually be able to do something about.  After all, if geese can figure this problem out, so should we.

New Southern Cultures Publication

Southern Cultures Journal

Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 2010

E-ISSN: 1534-1488 Print ISSN: 1068-8218
DOI: 10.1353/scu.0.0099

Susan Harbage Page
Bernard L. Herman
Longing: Personal Effects from the Border
Southern Cultures – Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 2010, pp. 31-45

The University of North Carolina Press

Project MUSE – Southern Cultures – Longing: Personal Effects from the Border Project MUSE Journals Southern Cultures Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 2010 Longing: Personal Effects from the Border Southern Cultures Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 2010 E-ISSN: 1534-1488 Print ISSN: 1068-8218 DOI: 10.1353/scu.0.0099 LongingPersonal Effects from the Border Susan Harbage Page and Bernard L. Herman Susan Harbage Page’s portfolio, Longing: Personal Effects from the Border, is an intervention — at once aesthetic, archaeological, and archival — into the spaces and objects associated with the great migration north across the Rio Grande and into the United States. Page’s images are visual conversations about the material culture of the immigrant experience and compel us to consider how we see ourselves through seeing others. Images of a deflated inner tube dropped by the road, a wallet mired, its contents spilling into the mud, footsteps revealed in soft earth, and river-wet clothes wrung, wadded, and cast aside document ordinary…

read it at Project Muse

Coming up in September

Alumni Artists from the Center’s First 10 Years

McColl Center for Visual Art

The ten artists selected for the 10-year anniversary exhibition for McColl Center for Visual Art represent the depth and range of artists who have been in-residence in Charlotte from all over the world. These artists have exemplified in their residency the transformational experience of the creative process. They pushed themselves and their own intellectual, technical, and creative boundaries to achieve significant breakthroughs in their work and thinking.

Rob Carter

Shaun Cassidy
Nick Cave

Rae Goodwin

Susan Harbage Page
Hongsock Lee
Willie Little
Gabi Nkosi
Renee Stout
Kenichi Yokono

September 4-Jan 2, 2010

Opening Reception: September 25, 6-9PM

McColl Center for Visual Art
721 North Tryon Street, Charlotte, North Carolina, 28202
(704) 332-5535

Crossing Over : A Floating Intervention

Crossing Over – A Floating Intervention
Art at the International Bridge
Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico
May 24, 2009

Artist Susan Harbage Page sponsored by Galeria 409 of Brownsville, Texas held a community art intervention/happening using children’s inner tubes to make a floating bridge between Mexico and the United States in protest of the border wall scheduled to be built in downtown Brownsville. Community members on both sides of the International Bridge between Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico inflated inner tubes and tied them together end to end to form the bridge. Harbage Page swam a line of inner tubes to the middle of the Rio Grande from the Mexican side of the river where she was met by David Freeman with a line of inner tubes from the U.S. side. She symbolically tied them together linking both sides of the border.

Participants also set up a Welcome Station for immigrants swimming across the border with running and swimming trophies and medals to commemorate the illegal crossings that take place in the area. Part of the event was a reclamation of borderlands along the river which traditionally are used only by members of the Border Patrol but could be the site of recreational areas such as River walks in San Antonio, Texas and Wilmington, North Carolina. A photograph of an earlier boardwalk in Brownsville can be found at the Historic Brownsville Museum.

Thanks to everyone who participated especially Betty Clark, Mark Clark, David Freeman, Lee Basham.

Special thanks to David Freeman for sharing his photos of the event. Photos below were made by David Freeman and Susan Harbage Page.