A barrier 1,969 miles in length runs through the southwestern desert separating Mexico and the United States, a physical symbol of the international politics of the new millennium. It is not one continuous wall, but rather a series of walls and fences strategically placed to inhibit the illegal border crossings. The barriers were built as part of three larger “Operations” in California, Texas, and Arizona enacted by President George W. Bush in 2006 with the intention to create a border protection/anti-terrorism/illegal immigration triple threat.
For the past decade, the wall has been a source of great debate, a subject that inflames the hearts of countless Americans on both sides of the issue. More recently, the wall has been invoked by Donald Trump, who cast it in a starring role in his campaign, stating, “I would would a great wall—and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
The border wall is more than a symbol of the power to divide; it is a symbol of the ability to control minds. The United States is a country populated exclusively by the descendants of immigrants and survivors of genocide; when Trump invokes the creation of a great wall he overtly aligns himself on the wrong side of history.
In a curious confluence of events, photographer Richard Misrach and composer Guillermo Galindo have collaborated on Border Cantos, a new exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art, California, now through July 26, 2016. The exhibition features 36 monumental landscape photographs by Misrach alongside 17 hand-crafted musical instruments created by Galindo from found objects recovered from the border. A discarded food can becomes the resonating chamber of an instrument modeled on a single-stringed Chinese erhu; empty shot gun shells are strung together to create a variation of a West African shaker. Accompanying the artwork is a sound installation featuring three pieces composed by Galindo made from the sculptures on view, bringing the experience of crossing the desert to life in a way that alternately be stills and overwhelms.
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Photo: Richard Misrach. Wall, East of Nogales, Arizona, 2015. Pigment print, 60 x 80 inches. Edition 1 of 5. © Richard Misrach, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, and Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles.