Artists Put a Seesaw at the Border Wall to Highlight Unity Amid Immigration Crisis

With both a political and literal divide between Mexico and the U


Photo: Instagram/rrael -- Rael San Fratello and Virginia San Fratello

With both a political and literal divide between Mexico and the U.S., two artists decided to unite both sides by creating seesaws placed along the border wall.

UC Berkeley Architecture professor Ronald Rael and San Jose State University design professor Virginia San Fratello designed the project, originally titled Teeter-Totter Wall. This past Saturday, they transported three bright pink lightweight steel seesaws and placed them on the border wall that separates Sunland Park, New Mexico from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

“The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S. – Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side,” Rael wrote in an Instagram post.

In 2009, the duo designed a concept for a binational seesaw at the border for the book, Borderwall as Architecture, which uses “humor and inventiveness to address the futility of building barriers,” according to UC-Berkeley. The book Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello worked on is described as a “hand grenade of a book,” as it reexamines the significance of the nearly 700 miles wall and the development of a “third nation,” or the Divided States of America.
Advocating for a reconsideration of the wall at the border is not an endorsement for the construction of more walls, nor should it give wall builders a greater reason for building them. Rather, if design — if architecture— can be smuggled into the creation and re-imagining of the border wall now, it will put into place several very important conditions that will affect the future of the landscapes, cultures, and bio-ecologies that it now divides,” Rael wrote in a column for The Architect’s Newspaper. 
The seesaws installed at the U.S.-Mexico border were fabricated by artisans in Juarez and Colectivo Chopeke – which focuses on uniting communities through design – aided in bringing the project to life. The project was taken down the same day it went up, according to Forbes, who spoke with a Customs and Border Patrol official as both CBP and Mexican soldiers were present during the event.
“On the evening of July 28, U.S. Border Patrol agents encountered a small group who identified themselves as local university faculty/staff at the border wall. They had placed boards through the wall and appeared to be playing with residents of Mexico while recording the engagement,” the CBP agent told Forbes. “The group removed the boards and left the area without incident after it was established that there was no advance coordination. Agents ensured that no people/goods were crossed during the encounter.”

The New Mexico town is also where a militia detained migrants this year and where a private group built its own border wall using millions of dollars raised in a GoFundMe campaign, CNN reports. The event comes after the Supreme Court allotted $2.5 billion in military funding to build the wall.

“This is incredibly important at a time when relationships between people on both sides are being severed by the wall and the politics of the wall. The wall, and the unfortunate politics of the wall, not only separate countries, but regions, cities, neighborhoods, families, and more recently, the separation of children from their parents,” both designers told HipLatina in an email.
Among those who participated were El Paso residents and the community of Anapra, Mexico, a Colonia of Juarez, whose community is built up along the wall. The original 2009 drawings and models are now in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
“It also demonstrates how actions that take place on one side of the border have direct consequences on the other,” the designers told HipLatina. “This is true at the political and economic scale, but also at the scale of human interaction.”

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Border Crisis border wall Politics U.S. Mexico border works of art
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