Art is always about response--whether it be a response to a mark that came before, a book, a news story, a personal event, a space. It is the tangible product of thinking and processing the environment. This project serves as a blueprint for synthesizing the constant stream of information moving through the world and creating a strategy of mobilization within it--a way to keep moving against a current that I/we cannot face alone.
The project is social in nature, a participatory endeavor. Through experiencing and participating, we begin to feel that we are all part of something larger, even if we don't know what that is. Participating is the feeling of connection, of being small, of anxiety, performing, discovery, uncertainty, vulnerability, joy. Participating asks for an action, or perhaps an offering--the action of drawing on walls, walking through the city, listening to a stranger, telling your story, making mistakes, writing a poem, reading it out loud, touching the art, trespassing, crossing a threshold. The Border Projects pose questions such as: How do we look at what is happening around us? How do we look without losing our minds? Is that even possible? How can we keep listening when all we want to do is cover our ears? How do we continue to pay attention? How did we become so deeply divided by borders, visible and invisible? How do we bear witness to trauma, sit with it, hold it, grieve? What are we choosing to look at? What are we looking away from? What are the ethical implications of our decisions?
As the projects evolve, conversation becomes the critical "medium" for the work. Conversation as a medium opened up new avenues for understanding and thinking about borders and the subsequent war, grief, and trauma often resulting from them. Through conversation people talk about the ways we experience borders and boundaries in our own lives, here and now. In conversation people talked about mental illness, gender, race, class, discrimination, immigration, politics, addiction, the things that are sometimes labeled “off-limits” in our homes. We talked about the borders we put up for protection, borders put up out of fear, borders that felt necessary and unnecessary. We talked about the Syrian Refugee crisis, about homelessness, about what it means to make friends with the enemy.
In The Border Projects: In Conversation, a pair of traveling tents served as our meeting place for gathering formally and informally to share our experiences and to listen. For Kim, the tent conjures up a family camp in the mountains where women delivered babies on dirt floors and bathed in the stream. For Adam, it was taking shifts sitting in a Bedouin tent because if westerners were present, the government would not force the Bedouins out that day. For Emily, it was driving for miles on the way to high school every morning in Nevada, passing tent cities after the mortgage crisis, populated with parents, children, elderly people, pets. It is the schema of a home, that picture that children draw with curly smoke coming out of the chimney, a red cross tent, a refugee tent, a camping trip, catching fireflies in the dewy grass, a place of safety, a place of fear, an unknown experience. It was in the tent that we asked whether a temporary space can be just as moving as a monument, how to find the demilitarized zones in our families, how sound can transcend borders, what we channel, what is sacred, how we can move through life without becoming immobilized. Talking in this tent is a way of modeling being together in the world and caring for each other as a potential solution, even on a small scale. It is a place where I must continuously challenge my own assumptions and prejudices and work to undo those things. It is a place of vulnerability, a place of surrender, or staking a claim, of trying things on, and seeing yourself through the eyes of another, of really listening.