Jason De León admits it may be a daunting process.
It’s one factor to commit years to exploring U.S. immigration insurance policies on the Mexico border and the way these insurance policies have probably contributed to hundreds of migrant deaths within the Sonoran Desert. It’s fairly one other factor to take such a delicate and data-driven difficulty and switch it into a compelling and interactive exhibition that’s, as De León describes it, “inviting,” “disarming” and, finally, “open to interpretation.”
“I just wanted to offer the public a new kind of experience or, perhaps, a new way to think about immigration,” says De León, an anthropologist who based the Undocumented Migration Project, a nonprofit analysis and arts-education collective. “As someone who lives and breathes this, it’s hard for me to keep up with the news cycle, and so I really wanted to find a way to educate and engage with people that didn’t feel like I was talking at them, but to provide them with an opportunity to engage with the facts and walk away and decide how they want to feel about it.”
This is the general mission of “Hostile Terrain 94,” a participatory exhibition that simply opened on the Museum of Us in Balboa Park. First established by the Undocumented Migration Project in 2013 to be one thing of a ready-made set up that could possibly be curated and reimagined relying on the placement, the exhibition invitations native patrons to discover U.S. immigration insurance policies through a selection of stationary and interactive components.
The signature piece of the exhibition is a massive map of the Sonoran Desert area the place members are requested to fill out toe tags for the over 3,000 individuals who have tried to cross the border and who died within the course of, after which place them on the map the place the particular person died. Local artist and curator Luisa Martínez calls the map the “core” of the exhibition, however provides that the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP) permits museums so as to add components to the exhibition in hopes of connecting to native audiences.
“The UMP team invites each site to contextualize the piece as they see fit and that’s where I came in,” says Martínez, who’s a California Arts Council Administrator of Color fellow and was paired with Museum of Us in February. “What are we going to do with this map? Is it just going to be the map? Does it relate to San Diego? What else should we add to the gallery to really make it something by The Museum of Us?”
Martínez and museum workers ended up including a quantity of different components to “Hostile Terrain 94,” together with a floor-to-ceiling mural that explores immigration and financial border insurance policies via the 1800s to the current day. Also on show will probably be objects and artifacts that have been collected within the desert, in addition to testimonies from relations who’ve misplaced family members who tried emigrate. Other interactive components embody workshops, poetry readings, panels and different programming that Martínez says will assist patrons perceive the methods during which border insurance policies additionally have an effect on the San Diego-Tijuana area.
“I didn’t want to shy away from the difficult conversations, but it’s also about making space for people to grow,” Martínez says. “There is heavy information, but it’s also about giving people time and space to learn and grow.”
James Haddan, the Museum of Us’s Senior Director of Development and External Communications, sees the “Hostile Terrain 94” exhibition as one the primary main salvos of the establishment’s effort to decolonize its programming and perspective since altering its identify from the Museum of Man.
“We really think this exhibit is in line with the mission of the museum and the work that we’ve been doing especially since we changed our name last year,” Haddan says. “This type of exhibit really exemplifies the values behind that name change.”
The first “Hostile Terrain 94” exhibition was introduced in 2013. The “94” within the title refers back to the 12 months during which the U.S. first applied its “Prevention Through Deterrence” border coverage. After the inaugural exhibition closed in 2017, De León and UMP started to suppose extra broadly about what he calls a “global exhibition about migrant death” — one which emphasised participation and will simply be put in in a selection of areas. De León says he all the time noticed it as a mission that may proceed to evolve relying on the placement.
“Every venue we partner with, they end up figuring out what additional elements and components they want to add to the show,” says De León, who has facilitated “Hostile Terrain” exhibitions at dozens of places everywhere in the world. “Obviously for San Diego, it’s much more U.S.-based programming, but since it’s a bigger space, we have a lot more elements like audio recordings, video, still photography, that kind of stuff.”
Still, given the troubling nature of the exhibition, De León factors out that it’s all the time been UMP’s intent to current the info in a method that’s delicate to each the victims and the general public.
“We’re always trying to find ways to ethically and sensitively engage with the public and raise awareness about these issues without making it feel exploitative or insensitive,” says de Leon. “The thing about ‘Hostile Terrain 94’ is that it’s a pretty simple idea: Here’s a spreadsheet of forensic data of people who have died in the Arizona desert and here’s a wall map and blank toe tags, and we’re just asking the public to write that information out. They’re basically transferring data from a computer spreadsheet into a hand-written form and making these maps. And the idea is that people are looking at forensic data, but it’s through their act of translating it that we hope connects them in a meaningful way to those who have lost their lives.”
“Hostile Terrain 94″ at Museum of Us
When: 10 a.m. to five p.m. Wednesdays via Sundays
Where: Museum of Us, 1350 El Prado, Balboa Park
Phone: (619) 239-2001
Admission $19.95, consists of free admission for a 12 months