The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) at Parsons School of Design presents State of Exception/Estado de Excepción, an exhibition featuring traces of the human experience of migration, including objects left behind by unauthorized border crossers on their journey through the desert into the United States. Together with other forms of related material, they were collected as part of the research of University of Michigan anthropologist Jason De León’s Undocumented Migration Project.
Created by artist/photographer Richard Barnes and artist/curator Amanda Krugliak in collaboration with De León, the exhibition includes an installation of hundreds of backpacks left behind by migrants crossing the Sonora Desert of southern Arizona, numerous pieces of clothing and ephemera, and photographs and videos taken by Barnes on location along the U.S.-Mexico border. The installation also features excerpts of original recordings of audio interviews with migrants as part of De León’s work.
“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,” the curators said in a statement. “State of Exception/Estado de Excepción honors the sheer materiality of the migrant experience. These objects are fragments of a history of both suffering and resiliency, and the images and voices reveal the desolation, hope and trials of their odysseys.”
“With this exhibition, we are pleased to declare the SJDC galleries a state of inclusion in which migrants are welcome,” said Radhika Subramaniam, Director/Chief Curator of the SJDC.
State of Exception/Estado de Excepción was launched at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan and has travelled to Detroit, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Phoenix prior to its presentation in New York City. At each venue, the exhibition has been updated to include new material, reflecting and responding to the ongoing public debate around immigration, as well as the continuous efforts to reform immigration in the United States and the inevitable backlash. This fifth edition features new objects: tires used by U.S. Border Patrol to clear the ground and make desert footprints more visible, and photographs taken by migrants themselves on their perilous journeys.