Monarch mimicry

U.S./Mexican Border wall, Agua Prieta, Sonora, 2017

Materials: one thousand glow in the dark vinyl stickers applied to the wall on the U.S./Mexico Border

                                                                                     Photographs by Chiara Rose Skabelund

... a woman came north through that desert, she walked and walked, ten miles, twenty miles, thirty miles, forty miles, I have done this same walk in the furnace days of summer, and so she walked and then, by God, she could walk no more and the water was gone and she started peeling off her clothes, the dress, then the slip, the panties, the bra, walking naked, the sun eating her, the temperatures rising, the brain staving off death with panic, she walks and then falls on the sand, flails about and I must tell you she is five months pregnant,…but she pretends she is swimming and this time the water is sand, the burning sands and so she swims.  When they find her, the authorities, she has second- and third-degree burns all over the front of her body from swimming in this volcanic sea.  She lives—sometimes we do live through these things…. Third-degree burns across the swollen breasts that will soon be rich with milk.

Charles Bowden, Inferno

What do we do with a wall, a massive mark that moves hundreds of miles dividing the landscape?

For one country, that wall is to keep others out, to not allow others in.

For the other country, the wall is a mark that says, "you are not welcome here, you cannot come in."

The wall belongs to the country that built it and no one is allowed to mark its facade.  It remains rusted steel. 

But they cannot do anything to those who want to put marks on its opposite side, where the wall was not wanted and permission was not asked to build it in the first place.  It remains a vertical plane forced upon them that they must live with. 

It seems only natural to cover it with beauty. 

On the north side of the wall, a culture of fear permeates the country.  It was constructed because of a lack of creativity, of imagination.

Danaus plexippus or the Monarch butterfly migrates thousands of miles to feed and breed on milkweed plants.  It is a symbol of hope in Mexican culture.  It teaches us that migration is a necessary means of survival, not only for the survival of the individual, but as a pattern of survival for the whole species and the ecology it lives in.  There is a parallel between natural and human migration patterns, patterns that humans can learn from.  What we need is an immigration policy that is humane and compassionate, one that is in parallel with the found in the natural world, which allows people to migrate for their economic survival without intimidation or fear.  With this in mind, I designed Monarch mimicry.

Thanks to:

Martina Rendon, who organized the event and all of those who helped me install it.  Janeece Henes, art instructor at Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy and her students, the teachers at Colegio Bilingüe Benemérito de las Americas, Agua Prieta, Sonora and their students and the Mayor of Douglas, AZ, Robert Uribe, and the Mayor of Agua Prieta, Héctor D. Ruvalcaba Gastélum and his entourage.