Photographer David Taylor’s exhibit "Working the Line," which documents the U.S.-Mexico border, opened on Wednesday at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.
The project consists of two parts: photographs of each of the 276 border monuments, obelisks which physically divide the U.S. and Mexico, as well as photographs of life along the border.
Michelle Lamunière, the former assistant curator of photography at the Harvard Art Museums, continued working on the project after leaving the Museums. Taylor and Lamunière have been collaborating on the exhibition formuch of the past two years. The two worked together to select about 20 photos that are on display at DRCLAS’s office in CGIS South, though the entire series of border monument photos are rotated on a video monitor in a continuous loop.
With current construction projects reducing exhibition space, members of the Harvard art community have been trying to find places to display work around campus, organizors said. The collaboration between the Harvard Art Museums and DRCLAS provided a space to do so.
“It’s overwhelmingly powerful,” said Martha T. Takayma, a former Immigration and Naturalization Services translator and fine arts agent who attended the opening. “[Taylor] has a brilliant ability to gather this information and also respect the culture.”
As a photographer and educator, Taylor said he was given unrestricted access to life at the border. He interacted with people crossing the border, U.S. Border Patrol, the Mexican Federal Police, and smugglers.
According to Taylor, the timing of his project allowed him unfettered access as coincided with the transition from more laid-back security to what Taylor called the “border security industrial complex.” Recently, Border Patrol numbers and mortality rates have risen as people are increasingly forced to travel through rough terrain to cross the border.
Taylor had to travel more than 690 miles by hiking and driving to reach all of the border monuments, which are owned jointly by both the American and Mexican governments.
“The project, on a personal level, has been the largest learning experience of my adult life,” Taylor said.
Marcela V. Ramos, the program manager for ARTS@DRCLAS, which works to foster a presence of Latin American art at Harvard, worked with Lamunière on the exhibit.
“It’s a combination of content and aesthetic,” Ramos said, making it an ideal work to use to engage with a broad audience, and hopefully more students.
In addition to an accompanying discussion on Thursday, professors will use the work in their teaching and there will be a dance performance related to the exhibit during Arts First weekend in May.
—Staff writer Emma C. Cobb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @emmaccobb.
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