For the past week, I’ve been on the road, heading south to visit friends and family, crossing many borders between states, cities and towns and traveling hundreds of miles. At the same time, I’ve had to adjust my mindset about loved ones who are facing physical and mental challenges as they grow older. This is not easy, but at the same time, it has been a wonderful experience to spend time with people who are dear to us.
Crossing boundaries often generates a mix of deep emotions–joy, pain, surprise, anger –regardless of whether we are traversing physical, mental, or metaphysical borders. We are changed once we cross the “demarcation line” regardless if the lines are set by our society, by medical or social communities, by our families, by our government, by our religion, or even by ourselves.
For this week’s post, I’m featuring four artists from the Art Prize 2015 competition who explored the concept of boundaries. This annual competition in Grand Rapids draws over a thousand artists from around the world. (If you want to learn more about the artist or the competition, click on the title of the work.)
Butterflies have always had wings; people have always had legs. While history is marked by the hybridity of human societies & the desire for movement, the reality of most of migration today reveals the unequal relations between rich & poor, between North and South, between whiteness and its others.”
― Harsha Walia, Undoing Border Imperialism
State of Exception: This installation features objects left behind by undocumented Mexican immigrants as they crossed the Arizona desert. They were collected as part of the Undocumented Migration research project by the University of Michigan professor, Jason De León. Working with artist/photographer Richard Barnes and artist/curator Amanda Krugliak, they created an installation in an abandoned warehouse that was powerful and stark. If you look closely you can see that some of the backpacks are decorated with American cartoon figures (Bart Simpson) and have American logos, which add an ironic twist for those migrants who do not successfully “cross over” to the other side.
The only true borders lie between day and night, between life and death, between hope and loss.
― Erin Hunter
Over the last 15 years, artist Julie Green creates ceramic dinner plates which depict the last meal requests of prison inmates. To date, she has created over 600 plates, which serve as a portrait and a still life. By not providing a name or the crime, we see in starkly simple terms, the human impact of capital punishment. I was especially touched and saddened by those people whose requests were denied or who chose to eat from the vending machines.
Artist Kate Gilmore transformed a private home, which had been used as a convent, into a performance piece. Nine women wearing long white dresses and red shoes, swung back and forth through open windows. The house, painted bright pink, was lit from within. The effect was startling and mesmerizing, making me think of the religious women who lived in the home, bound by their vows and devotion to their spiritual ideals.
Pages from a Manual Dismantling God
Look. Art knows no prejudice, art knows no boundaries, art doesn’t really have judgement in it’s purest form. So just go, just go.–K. D. Lang
This circular work by Philip Sugden is a collection of 21 drawings created in India and Tibet. They include quotes from the Dead Sea Scrolls, New and Old Testaments, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, Buddhist texts, physics, astronomy, music, and so on. The artist’s reason for using the circular installation is this: “the circular form …is based on the archetypal circle as ‘universality’ or ‘wholeness,’ and acts as a pilgrimage space as viewers to make their way around the interior.” I loved Sugden’s intricate and expressive drawings, which invite the viewer to join in a spiritual adventure. Here he illustrates the “first step” in the journey and crossing the boundary from the known to the unknown.
Do any of these border crossings speak to you? Are you embarking on a “crossing” of your own? Is it challenging, rewarding, terrifying, or all of the above?
Best of luck to you all on your “journey” this week! To see more responses to Ben’s”boundary” challenge, click here.
Thanks for the introduction to these artists…
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Hi Sally. Their work is fascinating. Glad you enjoyed them!
Very interesting, the installation of the immigrants. I also love the drawing.
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So glad you liked them, Maria! The immigrant installation was huge and overpowering–part of the artists’ message! It is a huge problem that tests the American immigration policy and forces us to evaluate why we exclude some immigrants and welcome others.
Great images. That one of the backpacks is so jarring and poignant.
Hi Jean. Yes, it was! The room was huge. It was very powerful. Thanks for your thoughts.
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