Screen City Biennial, Stavanger Norway

Virtual US/Mexico Border, augmented reality public art
Opening October 5th–8th, 2017, until October 31st.

Curated by Tanya Toft and Daniela Arriado, Screen City Biennial is produced in partnership with the Stavanger Maritime Museum. The theme of the Biennial, Migrating Stories, reflects topics of migration and post-colonialism, new geographies and ecology, real and virtual voyages, storytelling and narratives traveling through time.

Commissioned by the 2017, Screen City Biennial, in downtown Stavanger Norway, Virtual U.S.Mexico Border acts as an access point where the public can immerse themselves in virtual reality experiences documenting the North American migration crisis. The project includes a site specific public artwork consisting of a geo-located augmented reality scene, which the public can view on location with common mobile phones and tablets.

Virtual U.S.Mexico Border is an augmented reality experience which focuses on both sides of the border fence where it terminates into the Pacific Ocean at Friendship Park. Founded by First Lady Pat Nixon, Friendship Park is a small parcel of land on the bluffs above the ocean extending a few hundred meters in both directions, south into Mexico at La Playa de Tijuana and north into Border Field State Park in the United States.

Centered the historic obelisk boundary marker monument, the park was originally intended to be a shared space where families and loved ones from both countries could meet and spend time together.

The monument commemorates the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the war between the United States and Mexico on February 2, 1848 when Mexico conceded California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas along with what is now the entire Southwest United States. The agreement provided that an international border between the two countries would be established by a joint United States and Mexican boundary survey. The commission began its survey work at Border Field at the very point where the obelisk is placed.

Within a few years of the park’s dedication in 1971, a simple barbed wire fence was erected along the border through the park although visitors could still embrace where the fence intersected the obelisk. Subsequent years brought an ever escalating fortification and militarization on the U.S. side of the border from the obelisk eastward to Brownsville/Matamoros and to the west into the sea.

Today, the obelisk at Friendship Park is an epicenter of U.S. migration policy. Every Saturday and Sunday, from 10:00am to 2:00pm, the U.S. Border Patrol allows 25 people at a time to enter a small monitored area in the buffer zone between the main fence and the secondary fence, which was added after 911.

Families and friends, some who have traveled from all over both countries, meet and have intimate exchanges beneath 10 meters of hardened steel mesh.


About John Craig Freeman

John Craig Freeman is a public artist with over twenty years of experience using emergent technologies to produce large-scale public work at sites where the forces of globalization are impacting the lives of individuals in local communities. His work seeks to expand the notion of public by exploring how digital networked technology is transforming our sense of place. Freeman is a founding member of the international artists collective Manifest.AR and he has produced work and exhibited around the world including at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, FACT Liverpool, Kunsthallen Nikolaj Copenhagen, Triennale di Milano, the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Beijing, He has had work commissioned by the ZERO1, and His work has been reviewed in The New York Times, El Pais, Liberation, Wired News, Artforum, Ten-8, Z Magazine, Afterimage, Photo Metro, New Art Examiner, Time, Harper's and Der Spiegel. Christiane Paul cites Freeman's work in her book Digital Art, as does Lucy Lippard in the Lure of the Local, and Margot Lovejoy in Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age. His writing has been published in Rhizomes, Leonardo, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Exposure. Freeman received a Bachelor of Art degree from the University of California, San Diego in 1986 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1990. He is currently a Professor of New Media at Emerson College in Boston. Freeman writes, “If Andy Warhol set out to create a distinctly American art form in the twentieth century, I identify with those who seek to create a distinctly global art form in the twenty-first.”
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