Border Crossers

© MacMurtrie/ARW

© MacMurtrie/ARW

Border Crossers comprise a series of lightweight robotic sculptures that poetically explore the notion of borders and boundary conditions. The inflatable sculptures rise up to several stories high and extend across a given threshold. Their choreographed performance, originating on both sides of the border, would stage a symbolic connection. Border Crossers provoke investigation of borders as constructed entities. At one level its actions embody a simple curiosity to see what lies on the other side of a border (national, architectural, environmental, etc.). On another level the work expresses a utopian desire to live in a world without borders. The project treats the border as a physical condition that can be temporarily transcended by technological proxies. It offers a critique of militarized geopolitical borders, and a metaphorical suspension of those borders in the form of temporary arches or partial arches equipped with sensing and surveillance technology. The specific choreography of the inflatable machines would vary from one situation to the next. In one imagined scenario along the U.S.-Mexico border fence, six inflatable units would be installed on opposite sides of the border.

Border Crossers invites the public to rethink the notion of borders in a globalized world. Technology currently helps to overcome cultural and economic borders, but is also frequently used to maintain and reinforce physical borders.This project envisions technology as a positive tool to establish dialogues beyond borders, to question borders, and to create a symbolic suspension and transcendence of borders. Their actions allude to the equality of humanity against a backdrop of tensions and conflicts over national and cultural identity. This “gesture” could reinforce the hope for peace in location where reconciliation is thought to be impossible.

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After several years of exploring preparatory studies and models in my Brooklyn studio, my team and I created a 40-foot-tall Border Crosser in 2016. It was presented by the ZERO1, arts and technology festival in San Jose California, and exhibited in the public plaza of San Jose City Hall. The production of this Border Crosser was supported, in part, by the City of San José Office of Cultural Affairs, the Lucas Artists Programs at Montalvo Arts Center, and Arizona State University Art Museum and Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and by a generous in-kind donation of Dyneema® high tensile composite fabric. The next stages of project development are supported in part by current exhibitions and fellowships. I was recently honored to receive the 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts to continue work on the Border Crossers.