This installation — with works by artists Pedro Lasch, Susan Harbage Page and Yinka Shonibare — complements the exhibition Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space (September 19, 2013-February 2, 2014) and deals with the human consequences of the creation and regulation of borders.
Shonibare’s work, Scramble for Africa, assembles 14 mannequins around a table with a map of Africa at its center. This installation reimagines the Berlin Conference (1884-85) that resulted in a continent separated and parceled out among European powers, creating divisions that led to conflict and bloodshed. Arranged in theatrical poses, each mannequin is dressed in a Dutch wax-print fabric. This cloth further hints at the process of colonization, as the Dutch wax-prints were originally based on batik fabrics that originated in Indonesia, a former Dutch colony. The Dutch and English who manufactured the fabric later found a stronger market in West Africa and over time the prints have become most closely associated with African identity. By dressing his figures in this way, Shonibare questions methods of identity creation. This work also deals with the struggle for control of natural resources and goods, an issue still at play in global politics today.
Harbage Page and Lasch examine the experience of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, documenting in visual terms the effect such journeys have on material objects and, by extension, their human carriers. In a series of photographs, Harbage Page captures objects—such as a wallet, a lone argyle sock and scraps of fabric and paper—left behind as migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexican border. These items are no longer possessions but rather documents testifying to a life that has moved on, reminding us of what else may have been left behind: family, friends, and home. They serve as haunting reminders of the past as well as symbols of hope for the future.
Lasch’s evolving installation consists of maps printed with red images of North and South America labeled “Latino/a” and “America”, respectively. Lasch provides two of these folded up maps to each person he meets who plans to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. One map they keep for themselves, the other they return to Lasch following their crossing. Each sheet is marked with the evidence of the journey, the stains and tears creating an altered, more personal map.
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Scramble for Africa, 2003. Fourteen life-size fiberglass mannequins, fourteen chairs, table, and Dutch wax printed cotton; overall: 52 x 192 1/8 x 110 1/4 inches (132.1 x 488 x 280 cm). The Pinnell Collection, Dallas, Texas. © Yinka Shonibare MBE. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2013. Commissioned by the Museum for African Art, New York.
Susan Harbage Page, Trail with Black Plastic Bags, Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, Texas from the US – Mexico Border Project, 2007. Archival pigment print, 44 x 44 inches (106.68 x 106.68 cm). Courtesy of the artist. © Susan Harbage Page.
Pedro Lasch, LATINO/A AMERICA, 2003/2013. Mixed-media installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist. © Pedro Lasch. Image courtesy of the Queens Museum of Art, New York.