My project for Unessay 2 grew out of my examination of the use of text of art. In my first Unessay, I explored the use of text elements in art from antiquity, calligraphy, poetry, sculpture and modern art. For Unessay 2, I considered examining additional art forms that use text elements including movies, tattoos, and graffiti. In exploring graffiti, I was drawn to the historical example of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall became a beacon for expressive political speech and art, particularly on the western side of the wall. After researching and exploring Berlin Wall art, I was drawn to the parallels between the Berlin Wall and the proposed Trump Border Wall.
East Berlin attempted to limit any defacement of the wall on the eastern side (Berlin Wall Art Website). The tight control of the US border on the US side–coupled with Trumps’ demand that the US side of the wall be aesthetically pleasing–suggests that if the Trump Border Wall is actually built, the US side of the wall would be clean and austere while the Mexico side of the wall would become a canvas for expressive political speech, protest art, graffiti and even commercial art. Before conceiving of the Trump Twitter Wall, I considered authoring a blog posting on text art on the Mexico side of the existing border fence. In doing so, I explored the Mexico side of the border fence using Google Earth. I discovered that almost anywhere along the Mexico side of the existing border fence (which is typically a corrugated material or a vertical slat) that has a street view in Google Earth, robust and vibrant graffiti and other art can be found. The following are just a few examples of text art, graffiti, protest art, and commercial art found on the Mexico side of the current border fence:
(Friendship Park, Tijuana, Mexico; from Google Earth)
(Tecate, Mexico Border Fence; from Google Earth)
(Tecate, Mexico; from Google Earth)
In exploring the Mexico border cities on Google Earth, I encountered a surreal scene at the Tijuana/San Diego border where it meets the Pacific ocean. At the ironically named (or perhaps optimistically named) Friendship Park on the Mexico side of the border, vibrant and colorful graffiti and protest art is juxtaposed against a border fence that runs into the crashing waves of the Pacific ocean. When viewing this location, I conceived of the idea of modeling the Trump Border Wall and using the canvas this wall offers as a way to explore the themes of propaganda, political speech, time, the meaning of words, clashing opinions, protest and hope. The surreal image of Friendship Park is seen in the following images from both the Mexico and US side:
(Friendship Park, Tijuana/San Diego border for Mexico side; from Google Earth)
(Friendship Park, from US Side; from Google Earth)
The image of Friendship Park from the Mexico side shows some of the protest art and Graffiti that is visible on the border fence as well as the fence running into the ocean. The scene is vibrant, active and hopeful. In contrast, the US side of the border at the same location is abandoned, controlled by the US Custom and Border Control and devoid of graffiti and art of any type:
(San Diego/Tijuana Border from the US Side; from Google Earth)
The themes of my project where informed by this border location. Like all border walls, the Trump Border Wall has two sides. The Trump administration concedes that they can only control the US side of the wall by demanding that only the US side be “aesthetically pleasing.” Indeed, my project considers the contrast and juxtaposition of the controlled and managed US side of the wall–as a monument to Trump’s political speech as envisioned in my project–to the unrestrained and essentially free Mexico side of the wall. These two sides of the wall are two sides of the debate. Ideas, cultures, political systems, social systems and alternative futures clash at the wall–separated by a mere three feet of concrete.
My project asks the viewer to consider the following questions? Can three feet of concrete hold back people in search of a better life? Can it also hold back ideas, culture and opinions at odds with the current administration? One can debate both the merit or folly of a multi-billion dollar wall designed to contain the movement of people on the North American land mass and the conservative vision that our country must be figuratively walled off from foreign culture, ideas and forces of change if the American way of life is to survive. My hope is that my work provides some insight into this debate. In contrast to the stark, but monumental, presentation of Trump’s tweets on the US side of the wall, the Mexico side of the wall features actual graffiti and protest art found on the current Mexico border fence (as well as a other protest art found elsewhere, including from the Berlin Wall and Pink Floyd’s The Wall)
The haphazard placement of these varied and vibrant images on the Mexico side of the Trump Twitter Wall provides a foil to the authoritative, larger-than-life text of Trump’s tweets. And like Trump’s tweets, text elements serve a central role in most of the examples of graffiti and protest art used in my project. The purpose is not to analyze each piece of protest art on the Mexico side of the wall. Rather, the viewer is asked to reflect on the message and emotions that are visually portrayed and reach his or her own conclusions about the Trump wall.
Because of file size limitations (and difficulty finding 141 images), it was not possible to place an image on every panel of the Trump Twitter Wall on the Mexico side. Some of the images below may be offensive or controversial, but the goal is to explore the ideas, values, culture, and political beliefs that collide at the wall. I do not condone the message of every image, but provide a space for the artists to express themselves. The following images were used on the Mexico side of the Trump Twitter Wall.
(from Berlin Wall Art Website)
(from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, 1982)