Savannah Camastro

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VERGE, a group show at The Border Project Space on Bogart street, closes this week on April 7. On view this past month, five immigrant artists comment on borders, territories, immigration, people, and edges using various mediums. The wall Trump is currently imposing on our country calls for exclusivity and radical nationalism. However, “Verge inverts the concept of a wall as a barrier, transforming it into a platform for the convergence of human experience which was created with 1300 clay bricks,” as stated in the press release.

In August of 2014, two years and three months before Donald Trump became president, he tweeted “SECURE THE BORDER! BUILD A WALL!” Flash forward to 2019, where the president partially shut down the United States Government for 35 days after the House of Representatives  declined to fund the $5.7 billion wall Trump promised with his presidency. “The funny thing is that the day we opened this show was the day that Trump declared the Border Wall emergency. What perfect timing,” curator and Border Project founder,  Jamie Martinez told Bushwick Daily.

The five artists featured in VERGE are Anna Costa e Silva, Iván Sikic, Fanny Allié, Qinza Najm, and Saks Afridi. All of the artists are immigrants to America and were asked to be a part of the show by Martinez. “The idea behind this exhibition is to invert the concept of a wall as a barrier by transforming it into a platform to display five immigrant artists’ work,” Martinez said. “To me, border control at this moment is a heated conversation about the wall which is why I curated this exhibition, as a rebuttal to that conversation. I know that borders have to be controlled but not in an abusive way.”

Image courtesy of Jamie Martinez.

VERGE was based off of a concept Martinez had in mind that began with using the clay bricks as a platform. “My curatorial process always starts with a theme and no artists. Once I have the theme and idea, I search for artists that can help me complete the story and show.” Martinez’s curatorial process is very organic; exhibitions usually don’t come together until the last two weeks, “I believe that planning my shows ahead would box me in and I always work better under pressure.”

Though VERGE speaks to the current issues surrounding America’s continual battle against Trump’s nationalist agenda, it also addresses the ongoing problems that arise with border control that are happening around the globe. “Coming from the South of France we are witnessing the same problems for which France and other European countries are not welcoming migrants and are closing their borders. It’s a global issue that touches me on a personal level,” featured artist, Fanny Allié said, “Even though my work is not political, but more societal, I was glad to be asked to become part of this project and a part of this conversation.”

Allié’s mixed media triptych, “Creatures,” was chosen by Martinez during a studio visit to be a part of the show.  Consisting of imaginary figures made out of recycled and reused materials, the figures are fragmented, but once put together, interact. “I consider my characters to be a bit marginalized and lonely beings. There are no elements of a habitat, landscape or background unlike my other works on fabric and on paper,” Allié told Bushwick Daily, “There are no borders or divisions; the figures float freely on a neutral background with no sense of perspective or hierarchy.”

Fanny Allié’s “Creatures.” Image courtesy of the artist.

VERGE’s press release includes a definition of a borderland by American scholar of Chicana culture, Gloria Anzaldúa  as “a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants.”  In our current political climate, borders have been redefined as not an act of safety, but one of xenophobia, and a sign of power. “Across language, ethnicity, nationality, borders emerge as a way to shape identity through exclusion. If this border is threatened, so is this constructed idea of the self,” the Verge press release states.

Currently, the United States and Mexico border is already lined with 654 miles worth of barriers, “354 miles of barriers to stop pedestrians and 300 miles of anti-vehicle fencing,” according to BBC. President Trump, however, classifies the current border situation a “crisis” and “insists a physical barrier is needed to stop criminals crossing into the US; he has manufactured the border emergency.”  That being said, both Verge and the Border Space Project represent those who are affected by Trump’s implications. “The Border is a project space that focuses on supporting, nurturing and showing talented immigrant artists and their siblings living in the United States along with a few locals,” Martinez said. The Border is considered a non-political space, as its name and mission already carry a lot of political weight. “Reflecting the best of American diversity, THE BORDER is open to everyone,” their Facebook page says.

The Border Project Space is open every Saturday and Sunday, 1 p.m. through 6 p.m. VERGE will be on view  until April 7. For more info about the space, check out their website or follow them on Instagram.

Cover image courtesy of Pixabay.

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