#31: look deeper into the migrant experience

March 4, 2017

According to a press release from The New School/Parsons, their show State of Exception/Estado de Excepción “presents traces of the human experience—objects left behind in the desert by undocumented migrants on their journey into the U.S. and other forms of data, all collected as part of the research of University of Michigan anthropologist Jason De León’s Undocumented Migration project. De León’ sees the materials as fragments of a history, revealing death, trauma, and suffering on both sides of the border while bringing to light complexities of the migrant experience.”

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“Debris Field Left by Migrants on the U.S. Side of the Border” (2012), by Richard Barnes.

“Now, more than ever, in the aftermath of a presidential campaign that fed off anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric, it is absolutely critical to look deeper into the migrant experience and raise questions as to what the future may hold for the thousands of people fleeing dire poverty, drug cartel violence, and political instability to the south.”

“John Doe, Artifact #6” (2016), by Richard Barnes. These are personal effects found on the bodies of migrants who had died in the Sonoran desert on the United States side of the border.

“John Doe, Artifact #6” (2016), by Richard Barnes. These are personal effects found on the bodies of migrants who had died in the Sonoran desert on the United States side of the border.

Photographs and other forms of evidence that flow effortlessly and in abundance across the internet as the truths that build fake news and its very real violent manifestations, demand material depth for greater substantiation, authentication, and complexity. Material depth that contributes to seeing through, past or with greater depth at fake news can take many forms:

  • access to material objects that ground the fleeting
  • encounters with rudderless objects that occur within what I have called “good image holding environments” that produce context by building history, analysis, and frames and are also themselves contexts as places with unique and situated histories, communities, and values (I want to be clear, this can include spaces on the internet, albeit those made and inhabited with great care and commitment)
  • access to humans who have lived, witnessed, or embody the experience being evidenced
  • and finally and perhaps counter-intuitively, a poetic approach that offers truths only available through the imagination, the aesthetic, the intellectual or the affective.

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One Response to “#31: look deeper into the migrant experience”


  1. […] to the work of Astria Suparak and others, allowing it to be one of those rare internet places that I’ve been referring to in this project that uses the space to construct depth through material). I wrote in 2009, when things were much […]


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