At the US-Mexico border, children from both countries recently came together to play thanks to a new art installation by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, co-founders of the studio Rael San Fratello.
The installation appeared along the steel border fence on the outskirts of El Paso, Texas and Cuidad Juárez, Mexico during the last weekend in July. Three neon pink see-saws were hooked onto the border wall itself, turning it into “a literal fulcrum” between the countries.
The project, which the artists call “Teeter-Totter Wall,” has been in progress since 2009, when the earliest concept drawings were created. The fact that it happens to be complete just as political tensions around the border have reached what might be an all-time high is purely coincidence, according to the duo.
Photos and videos show children on both sides laughing as the see-saws go up and down (always supervised by adults, of course). The designers say no pre-planning took place on the Mexican side of the border; the children just naturally came along to participate in the “unifying act.”
“One of the most incredible experiences of my and Virginia San Fratello’s career [is] bringing to life the conceptual drawings of the Teeter-Totter Wall from 2009 in an event filled with joy, excitement, and togetherness at the border wall,” said Rael in a recent statement. “The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S.-Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.”
“Amazing thanks to everyone who made this event possible like Omar Rios [CHOPEkE Collective] for collaborating with us, the guys at Taller Herrería in Cuidad Juárez for their fine craftsmanship, Ana Teresa Fernández for encouragement and support, and everyone who showed up on both sides, including the beautiful families from Colonia Anapra and Kerry Doyle, Kate Green, Ersela Kripa, Stephen Mueller, Juancarlos Reyes, Chris Gauthier, and many others (you know who you are!)”
At a time when smiles and lightheartedness are especially hard to find in conversations about the border, let alone directly along it, this project aims to remind us all that borders can and should be transcended. It’s also worth noting that — not long ago, in terms of human history — Mexico once extended far past its current border into what is now the United States, blending with the territories of many indigenous peoples who never actually ceded their land to European newcomers.
With the debut of “Teeter-Totter Wall” comes a new book by Rael and San Fratello, Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary, which “is an artistic and intellectual hand grenade of a book, and a timely re-examination of what the 650 miles of physical barrier that divides the United States of America from the United Mexican States is and could be. It is both a protest against the wall and a projection about its future.”
Rael San Fratello was previously best known for their innovative experiments using highly portable equipment that could be carried by hand to any site and used with local soils to construct 3D-printed architecture. Be sure theck out Rael’s Instagram for more info on their work.