This weekend I finished up my "Meet the Artist" video (you can view it here) and towards the end of the video I talk a little bit about my explorations with border-themed art, but I wanted to talk more about it here. The themes of immigration, borders, and walls have been popping up all over the art world, especially in the last year. I find using art to examine both the physicality and emotional connections to walls and borders incredibly visceral and moving.
I came to my own examination of border art through the joy of exploring Google Earth. I can lose myself to hours staring at those beautiful satellite images, spinning the globe round and round. The best part of Google Earth is the ability to turn off all map layers. Maps have their own allure for me, but so does looking at the earth in its naked, geological simplicity. Without any scientifically overlaid information, the world is all swirling color, collided continents, vast deserts, and complex maze-like mountains.
Getting lost in the artistry of it made me realize something: I had no concept of what countries I was looking at and – while cultural identity matters to us from a sociological and psychology perspective – when you appreciate the world for the geological marvel that it is you completely remove the fact humans live and fight across its surface. The artistry of the geology and botany at that scale is present regardless of our human-constructed differences, tribes, and modern countries.
I have also been incredibility moved by all the border/immigration art I've been seeing. Perspective-taking is a lost skill in today's world. People like Brené Brown are trying to highlight and bring a conversation about psychology and empathy into our mainstream (which Brené does mostly through the lovely medium of storytelling). Artists do their part in a different way, but powerfully just the same. Art asks us to question the way in which we see the world.
"State of Exception/Estado de Excepción" asks us to consider the nameless, the discarded, and the dead who try to walk to a better life. The piece "Reflecting the Border" is a powerful bending of light and perception. I found the submission for a Mexico-USA border from the J.M. Design studio light-hearted yet pointed. The Most Beautiful Wall is an incredible use of web design to interactively think about borders. This actual proposal from PennaGroup is one of that acknowledges both humanity and artistry. And I am so looking forward to this exhibit here in Reno coming this summer.
In my life, I am pretty decidedly apolitical. I know many of my friends have a problem with this, but I tend to believe most strongly in the middle ground that doesn't really exist. I find it more important to see both sides of issues, just like I teach my middle school students to do. But there are some truths that I do believe I can speak to, even if they don't really fit a political paradigm.
Borders and territorial disputes are two of these, but my message is still not super political.
My message is this: Consider another perspective.
Consider how many empires the mountains have seen rise and fall. Consider the beauty of a region you know to house violence. Consider the size of a region compared to the region where you live. Consider geography. Consider that some people love and live amidst violence. Consider how very short a time humans have traversed this planet. Consider the resilience of Earth. How does that help us understand that which matters most?
We always have more in common than we think. Our humanity unites us rather than divides us when we really listen. We are many, but we all come from one very small population of hominids. We are all related.
My challenge to you:
Remember a time when you dissolved a barrier between you and another person. Can't think of one? Can you think of one you should?
Next post I will show you some of the border art I've been creating.