Artist and writer Jennifer Dalton Vincent reflects on the 200+ companies vying to build walls and anti-walls for the US-Mexico border.
Borderline: when ‘Great Walls’ make great art
On Tuesday, April 4 the Associated Press reported that over 200 companies had submitted proposals to US Customs and Border Protections (CBP) for President Donald Trump’s ‘Great Wall’ destined for the US-Mexico border. As to be expected, most submissions put forward serious and literal responses to the President’s inane prompt, though thankfully a few rapscallion firms made a serious and literal joke of it.
There were the unclever, straightforward proposals for walls made of tightly woven wire-mesh, a material that in my book earns points for being both lightweight and sufficiently cruel in its optics. These proposals might have earned the superlative for “Maximum Security” if it had not been for San Diego Project Management’s pitch for the Security Curtain Wall. To quote from National Public Radio’s (NPR) online reporting: “With its face pitched at an angle [the wall] borrows medieval concepts to give guards a better view of possible ‘villains’ approaching the wall - and with its walkway toward the top, it gives those guards a place to patrol from a height.” Now that we’re talking about villains, I’ll dare say that the Security Curtain is indeed a doozy of architectural villainy. Touting a “surface finish on the south side … the same quality as the finish on a smooth floor slab” San Diego Project Management promises an unscalable border wall in the language of a nouveau-Crusades sniper video game.
But, I hope for a great reversal from our “Developer-in-Chief”. Because when it comes to walls President Trump has options. It turns out that among the 200 + proposals are a slew of ‘anti-wall’ walls and even a national security apparatus re-envisioned as a 2,000-mile sea glass and tile mural. I can see the headlines now. The Trump Administration reveals at the eleventh hour that our President - a cagey, yet benevolent despot - has elected to commission the largest piece of public art in all of US history.
For example, under consideration by Trump and the CBP is a slick proposal from the Made Collective for a futuristic hyperloop transit system that will bond the US and Mexico as partners in the creation of Otra Nation. To quote from NPR, the Made Collective envisions “a trans-national ‘New Deal’ to build an innovative, shared co-nation based on local economic empowerment, energy independence, and revolutionary infrastructure and transit.” Could this be what Trump meant when he said that Mexico would pay for the wall? Or what Steve Bannon meant when he said the incoming administration would push through a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan to “rebuild everything’? Please please, Press Secretary Spicer, tell me it’s true!
While the Made Collective makes a strong case for Otra Nation, my vote goes to J.M. Design Studio’s A Wall of Pipe Organs, whose pithy proposal calls for a semi-continuous border wall of 10 million pipe organs. Every 20’ is an archway that allows safe passage through the musical monument, albeit at a small cost. Border crossers must announce their arrival by playing a little ditty on the nearest organ as they pass from one nation to the next. Just think of the grand unveil. After years of installing and tuning millions of organ pipes, the Trump Administration will invite the “Queen of Pop” herself, the majestic Madonna, to mark the apex of her artistic career as a popstar-cum-diplomat by performing “Borderline” at the border line on the organ of her choosing. In a word, caliente!
The CBP plans to announce finalists for the contract in June. Finger’s crossed until then, people.
Jennifer Dalton Vincent is a Rhode Island-based artist and writer whose real and unrealized artworks trade heavily in humor and social commentary. She received her B.A. from Brown University’s Department of Modern Culture and Media. Her most recent curatorial project at apexart, Setting Out, has been written about in Hyperallergic and her artwork has been featured at the RISD Museum. Learn more about her and her work at www.jenniferdaltonvincent.com.