This multimedia installation of photographs, sculpture, found objects and sound examines the complex socio-political dialogue surrounding immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border and is the final showing in a multi-venue tour that included the San Jose Museum of Art; Amon Carter Museum of Art, Fort Worth; and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville.
Since the 1970s, Richard Misrach has photographed the dynamic landscape of the American West through an environmentally aware and politically astute lens. His visually seductive, large-scale color vistas powerfully document the devastating ecological effects of human intervention, industrial development, nuclear testing and petrochemical pollution on the natural world. Over the last decade, Misrach’s photographic focus has been the increasingly militarized 1,969-mile border between the United States and Mexico: sections of the Wall installed in varying lengths and materials, Border Patrol shooting ranges, Effigies or scarecrow-like figures fashioned by anonymous makers out of tattered clothing and dry agave stalks, tire drags used to monitor migrant traffic in desert sand, personal artifacts left behind from migrants’ journeys and glimpses of everyday life from both sides of the border.
Guillermo Galindo has also responded to the recent wave of border militarization through the music he composes. Inspired by avant-garde and indigenous musical traditions from around the world, he transforms the physical detritus of the borderlands — water bottles, backpacks, discarded clothing, Border Patrol flashlights and drag tires, spent shotgun shells, ladders, children’s toys, animal skeletons and sections of the Border Wall itself — into unique instruments from which original scores are composed. It is Galindo’s hope that these sound-generating, kinetic sculptures enable the invisible victims of immigration to speak through their cast-off personal belongings.
The artists’ interdisciplinary collaboration began following a fortuitous encounter at a 2011 San Francisco Pop-Up Magazine event featuring one of Galindo’s border relic compositions which strongly resonated with Misrach. Upon learning that the composer had ceased traveling to the border region to collect immigrant artifacts, Misrach began shipping those he photographed in situ back to Galindo’s Oakland studio. What Misrach saw, Galindo heard and by early 2012 their artistic partnership was formed. As Galindo explains, “Richard’s photographs have become music and my music has materialized in his images. At this point one thing cannot exist without the other.” Misrach concurs, “We’re not only bridging the notion of the two cultures, but also our two mediums. It is a nice metaphor for what should be happening with the border.”
Border Cantos is a multi-sensory meditation on the unseen realities of immigration today. Through the disembodied evidence of immigrants’ travels, Misrach and Galindo immerse viewers in an audiovisual experience of the U.S.-Mexico border that bears witness to the thousands who cross it, often tragically, each year. As homeland security, immigration reform and continental economics occupy the forefront of national news, their work brings a poetic, humanitarian perspective to controversial concerns that could not be more timely or prescient. Border Cantos encourages viewers to reflect on what they see and hear and ultimately develop their own more fully informed conclusions on the subject of immigration.